The point kept the Islanders a couple of points ahead of Carolina and bumped back into the first wild card position, but it was a missed opportunity (again) to break their slump and create some breathing room in the playoff chase.
Things turned quickly at the end, with the Islanders carrying lots of momentum in getting Josh Bailey’s tying goal and then a late power play to go for the winner — only to have Mathew Barzal, who drew that penalty, take a four-minute minor himself when he high-sticked Jordan Staal with an overzealous attempt to keep play in the Canes zone.
Vincent Trocheck ended up scoring on the ensuing power play in overtime, a controversial goal thanks to the on-ice officials missing an obvious high-stick moments before, which the league reviewers felt unable to overturn.
First Period: You guys know this is important, right?
The Islanders were disturbingly flat and slow throughout the opening period in a game where the opponent is one of the biggest threats to knock them out of a playoff position.
Somehow, they survived that opening 20 minutes only conceding once, on a Justin Williams deflection of a point shot that survived video review.
Late in the period, Leo Komarov compounded things by pursuing Brady Skjei, who still has that heavy stench of Ranger, too carelessly on the forecheck and clipping him with a high stick that drew blood. That gave the Hurricanes a four-minute power play that could carry over to the next period.
Second Period: That’s Better
Thankfully, the Islanders killed the rest of the first period off and the remainder of that power play to start the second. But they took a too many men penalty early on to make things harder.
With Jordan Eberle serving the bench minor, the Islanders’ top line was able to pounce as soon as the penalty expired. Eberle came out of the box and immediately stripped the puck, creating a chance for Mathew Barzal. Then Anders Lee sustained the forecheck and stripped Skjei of the puck in the left wing corner, feeding Ryan Pulock breaking into the slot to one-time a shot that tied things at 1-1.
That seemed to relax the Isles a bit and they continued their improved play throughout the middle period, but they wasted two power play opportunities during the period. The first came when Ryan Dzingel foolishly took things to far in a pre-faceoff battle with Anthony Beauvillier, the other after Andrei Svechnikov cleared the puck over the glass under pressure behind the Canes net late in the period.
Things reached the second intermission still tied.
Third Period: Making it Difficult, Again
The Isles put themselves in a hole again when their structure broke down and Joel Edmundson was free to pop the g-ahead goal into a wide open net six minutes into the final period.
But the Islanders responded well, and were doing what they needed to do to get an equalizer except convert. They were pinching, they were keeping sustained possession in the offensive zone, and they were having smooth line changes that kept the tempo and possession high. Barry Trotz was even going to the well by giving his top line more rotations to increase the chance to tie.
But it just seemed like once again, nothing was going to break their way.
Yet every once in a while in that situation, the under-pressure opponent helps you out. In this case, Noah Dobson pinched down the right boards, came around the other side for a wraparound attempt...and the Hurricanes left Josh Bailey wide open at the top of the crease.
Trevor van Riemsdyk was the most guilty party, vacating the area to pursue Dobson, and this time Bailey made no mistake. He buried it to the far side of the net to make it 2-2 with just under five minutes to go.
It broke a slump for Bailey — his first goal since Feb. 23 — and came after he’d been robbed on a point-blank chance to tie earlier in the period.
Tasting blood, the Islanders kept up the pressure through the final minutes. Barzal — who was having a great game along with his linemates — drew a late tripping penalty that you thought might set the Islanders up for the win. That only lasted 28 seconds, however...
The Barzal double-minor really hurt. The winner by Vincent Trocheck seemed like absolute B.S. — the refs missed the obvious high-stick by Svechnikov to knock the puck out of the air and off the crossbar before Trocheck hit the rebound in — but the chances of the Hurricanes converting on their lengthy 4-on-3 were still very high. This game had become a coin flip with a trick coin, weighing the odds heavily in Carolina’s favor.
Now it’s back out on the road and a tough Western trip. That begins Tuesday in Vancouver. Good luck, boys.