The series couldn’t have ended tonight, but given the near-impossible odds of coming back from down 0-3, Game 3 was a must-win to keep the Islanders in the series. Barry Trotz even said, and I’m paraphrasing here, the Islanders needed to win 2 games in Raleigh.
But Carolina fed off their fans and put the series out of reach before the night was done. All we can hope for at this point is one win in Raleigh to send it back to Brooklyn one more time.
Carolina Starts Quick, As Expected
The Hurricanes started the postseason 3-0 and their crowd is rowdy, so an early push from the home team was a given, especially since coming home with a 2-0 series lead likely eases some nerves of both players and fans. It culminated in early control of the game and the first lead of the game.
The Islanders were caught standing around a little bit in their own zone as the ‘Canes set up. Jaccob Slavin threw the puck toward the net and it was corralled at the side of the goal by Teuvo Teravainen. After a few whacks, he was able to put it in over the line before Robin Lehner made his way to that side of the net. The excited fans exploded as their team took a 1-0 lead.
Shortly after their goal, though, as they lost possession in the offensive zone, Carolina was whistled for a penalty — specifically, Warren Foegele for high-sticking Devon Toews. The Islanders proceeded to produce arguably their best power play opportunity of the season.
As far as I remember, the puck didn’t leave the Hurricanes zone once as the Isles’ top unit moved it around the diamond like the infield after making an out for 1:15 with Anders Lee in his office. Devon Toews wisely took it upon himself to shoot from the point and it was tipped by Carolina penalty killer Brock McGinn on its way in. Still no even strength goal, nor a goal not touched last by a ‘Cane, but it’s a goal.
They entered the second period tied at 1-1 and the Hurricanes reacquired lead halfway through the period. After an Islanders power play was killed off, due in part to Josh Bailey trying to pass when he could’ve landed a plane in his place he was so wide open, Foegele found Justin Faulk exiting the box with a soaring feed. Faulk entered on a breakaway, deked, and lifted a backhand over Lehner’s poke check.
We Have Life
Again less than three minutes later, the Islanders tied the game back up and mellowed the crowd thanks to none other than Josh Bailey. Carolina tried to exit their zone but were thwarted by Tom Kuhnhackl. Bailey and Brock Nelson were still near the blue line and entered in for a quick odd-man rush, and Kuhnhackl hit Bailey with a flick of the wrist. Bailey locked in and fired past Curtis McElhinney, finally breaking through even-strength and on their own.
The game remained even into the third, the Islanders not letting up and earning plenty of chances in the first half of the period. They arguably controlled things there.
But Lehner went behind the net to play the puck off a dump-in from the ‘Canes and tried to send it around the glass to an Islander waiting on the half wall. It was knocked down by Sebastian Aho in the corner. He saw Justin Williams cutting in through the middle and fed him. Williams got his stick on it, but so did Nelson, who was coming off the bench and noticed danger. Unfortunately, it popped up in front of Lehner, who wasn’t yet settled, and over his shoulder. 3-2 Carolina.
The Islanders responded admirably to going down the first two times in this game, but not this time. Through some combination of rejuvenation for the Hurricanes and paralysis for New York, Carolina dominated the last 10 minutes. The Islanders barely left their own zone, and when they did, they got nothing going. They weren’t even able to pull Lehner until there was about 1:20 left in the game, and play was whistled dead around 1:06. Trotz called timeout and drew up what he wanted to see off the ensuing face-off. But it was won by the Hurricanes, and Aho fired successfully at the empty net. Aho added another empty-netter with 4 seconds left to seal it up. 5-2 Carolina for a 3-0 series lead.
Thoughts and Feelings
I got an eerie feeling about the game in the lead-up to the first ‘Canes goal. Carolina looked energized by their home crowd and two days off, while the Islanders seemed a bit stiff. Not playing poorly, just playing too tensely. And that feeling was sort of reinforced after that goal was scored. There was still plenty of time left in the game, but that puck rested by the net a while and Teravainen got three clean swipes at it before it was even challenged by Lee or Lehner. By that point, it was already inside the cage.
They were resilient, though, for most of it. Even when Carolina got their second lead of the game. I started to write off the game, but they got it back again and took a tie game into the third. I really thought something magical might happen, but not tonight. Not for the Islanders, anyway.
I can understand the air getting let out of the balloon after the third Hurricanes goal, but the lack of fight they showed down only one goal with their season pretty much on the line was disappointing at best. Can’t make sweeping judgments on ten minutes of gameplay and I’m not, but I’d be lying if I didn’t feel let down watching it as a fan. If not for the two empty-netters, the Islanders would’ve lost a third straight one-goal game.
They got very few bounces in their favor, while it seemed like the Hurricanes got almost every bounce imaginable throughout each of their victories. Carolina looked a lot better tonight than they did during the two games in Brooklyn and it almost didn’t matter. But here we are, on the verge of rapid elimination from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The sweepers of the First Round will try to avoid being swept in the Second Round on Friday night. Game 4 is in Raleigh, North Carolina at 7:00 p.m.