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Hurricanes 6 (EN), Islanders 3: Carolina blitz

In the season opener, the Isles were a step short and fell victim to a familiar old script in Raleigh.

New York Islanders v Carolina Hurricanes
Challenged.
Photo by Gregg Forwerck /NHLI via Getty Images

With the pandemic requiring intradivision play only last season, the Islanders never faced the Carolina Hurricanes in 2019-20. Their past-and-present Metro rivals were not missed.

When the Canes have the Islanders’ number, the game plays out a lot like it did in each team’s opener Thursday night in Raleigh. It was more free-flowing than the Isles like to play, it was high-scoring, and the Hurricanes used their quick passing and side-to-side pressure to keep the Isles chasing during repeated stretches.

The result was a game where the Isles could’ve stolen a point or two if they got a few bounces, but ultimately a deserved 6-3 loss. The Isles power play was a net negative, their penalty kill was worked too hard, and their bright points at five-on-five were too few and far between.

[GameCenter | Game Sum | Event Sum | Hockey Viz | Natural Stat Trick]

First Period: Barzal on the Board

The Isles drew first blood, though it wasn’t clear to anyone on the ice — except maybe Kyle Palmieri — at the time. Palmieri made a nice one-handed backhand pass to the front of the net, and Mathew Barzal shot what appeared to be a miraculous toe save by Frederik Andersen. That came at 7:23 and was eventually ruled a goal, but not until a lengthy video review initiated after play continued on for a couple of minutes.

When the refs announced “the puck crossed the line,” a confused crowd cheered, clearly not understanding what portion of the prior two minutes was being reviewed.

It only took two minutes for the Hurricanes to tie it up, however, and that was followed by two Islanders power plays that were so inept it sucked some of the life out of their game.

In between those power plays, the Hurricanes got a go-ahead goal off an offensive zone faceoff, Jesper Fast deflecting a high shot downward to beat Ilya Sorokin, who truly “never had a chance” on that one. That left the Isles trailing 2-1 heading into the first intermission.

Second Period: Yuck.

After the three-goal first, the teams traded four total goals in the second. The Canes are probably fine with that kind of game — especially since it pulls the Isles off theirs — but it was a loose period for both teams.

Brock Nelson tied it at 2-2 in the first minute with a no-quit follow-through after a great power move to the front of the net. He ended up below the goal line when he banked his final attempt in off of Andersen’s pad and in.

The Islanders then had a power play opportunity, but again they could not get anything going and, worse, Anders Lee took a “We Now Enforce Crosschecking” penalty in the offensive zone corner. The 4-on-4 stint that followed was uneventful, but the Hurricanes then went to work showing the Islanders what a power play can look like if you gain the zone, move the puck quickly and elude penalty killing pressure.

The Isles didn’t concede on the power play, with Sorokin making a couple high-difficulty saves. But the Hurricanes retook the lead soon afterward. A hot puck bounced away from Casey Cizikas down low, and Jordan Martinook turned and fired before anyone could adjust. Sorokin was also screened on the play.

Five minutes later, the Hurricanes doubled their lead and made things uncomfortable.

Nino Niederreiter drove down the right wing around Zdeno Chara and crashed into Sorokin, which pushed the Isles goalie into the net and allowed the puck to cross the line. The officials initially whistled play only to call a penalty on Chara — a hint that a potential goalie interference challenge might not go the Islanders’ way. After huddling, the officials decided their on-ice call would be a goal, then they did a brief video review to affirm their call.

That set the stage for the next decision: Should the Isles challenge for goalie interference? Niederreiter’s collision with Sorokin clearly made the goal possible, but the fact the referees were calling a penalty (presumably tripping) for Chara’s part in that collision would’ve kept me from challenging. Still, you never know with NHL reviews. After the game, Trotz said he felt it was clear Chara’s impact wasn’t what sent Niederreiter into Sorokin.

Anyway, the call was upheld, but the Islanders responded well with a successful penalty kill followed by a very good shift from the Barzal line that resulted in a goal for Anders Lee.

MSG informed us it was Lee’s 185th regular season goal, passing Billy Harris for 12th on the Isles all-time list.

The Isles played pretty well the rest of the period and generated multiple near-miss chances for an equalizer around the front of the Hurricanes net, including a good final-minute push by the Barzal line and a juicy open net that bounced over J-G Pageau’s stick as time expired.

But no dice, so the second intermission arrived with the Isles still trailing 4-3.

Third Period: Things get worse

The Islanders did not pick up where they left off to open the third period. After an early icing, the Barzal line spent the bulk of a two-minute shift stuck in their own zone with Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech. It ended with Andrei Svechnikov allowed to waltz alone in front, where he hit the post before the Isles got a whistle.

Their passive play didn’t end with that shift, but the Isles eventually settled down to make you think they’d get a chance to equalize again. But the Isles could not kill another Canes power play after Oliver Wahlstrom took a soft but avoidable holding penalty in the offensive zone. Teuvo Teravainen did the damage with a blistering one-timer from the right wing.

With Sorokin pulled late for a sixth attacker, Ryan Pulock saved a goal — as is his custom when the goalie’s away — but Barzal took a penalty (probably preventing a goal), and the Hurricanes eventually added an empty netter on the power play for the 6-3 final.

Trotz Post-Game

Here’s more of Trotz’s post-game comments.

Quick Thoughts

Bright spots:

  • Lee returned, scored, and looked his old self.
  • Though it was an inconsistent night, the top three lines each had their moments, partcularly the Barzal line.
  • Pulock is signed for eight more seasons after this one.
  • Though he didn’t dominate or put on a show, Sorokin was fine and really not at fault for most of the goals; lots of traffic or side-to-side passes to create most of them. You just need him to stand on his head for one or two of those to change the outcome.
  • Zach Parise is obviously still finding his fit, but you saw flashes of how he could be a help for the third line.
  • Saw Zdeno Chara and Andy Greene together at times on the PK. That’s not actually a bright spot, but it’s pretty funny to see a combined 80-year-old out there.

Dim spots

  • The Isles power play. Woof.
  • The penalty kill: Only conceded once but was worked over with speed and passing, and the results could’ve been worse.
  • Okay, let’s ding the 5-on-5 play too: Too many spells of porous or passive team defense. It allowed the Canes to do what they do best, sending pucks from everywhere and pouncing on the rebounds and “loose change,” as Trotz described it.
  • Chara’s reach is still there, but he definitely looked older and slow against Carolina’s speed.
  • The fourth line did not have a visible nor tone-setting night. Some of that may be due to the steady interruption of penalties and constantly playing from behind.
  • We’ve seen in the pre-pandemic past that the Isles have learned how to slow down the Hurricanes’ game, but the Canes also really know how to get the Isles outside their comfort zone. An unwelcome yet familiar site tonight.

Up Next

There will be many more chances this season to “get back to their game” against what some predict will be a rival for the division title chase.

For now, it’s off to Florida for Game #2 on Saturday. The Panthers came back to beat the Penguins tonight in overtime.