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Hurricanes 2, Islanders 1: Carolina takes Game 1 with defense, power play goals

The Hurricanes played their game, while power play success provided the margin for victory.

New York Islanders v Carolina Hurricanes - Game One
Yep, another one of those pics.
Photo by Josh Lavallee/NHLI via Getty Images

The futile power play that has haunted the New York Islanders through most of the 2022-23 season hurt them again in their postseason opener, a 2-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 1. Both teams came in with struggling power plays and strong penalty kills, but the home team is better in both categories, which was pivotal in Game 1.

Overall, the Hurricanes’ vaunted pinching and swarming defensive approach frustrated the Isles, who were outshot 31-20 at even strength, for much of the game. But two Hurricanes power play goals, and a trademark 0-for-4 performance by the Isles with the extra man, provided the difference.

Just like the 2-1 loss in Raleigh late in the season, the Isles created few, and far between, truly dangerous chances, while they relied on Ilya Sorokin to keep the Hurricanes from tallying more. So the game played out as many would’ve expected on paper, except for the method of Carolina goals. Antti Raanta was good but largely untested in stopping 25 Isles shots.

[NHL Gamecenter | Game Summary | Event Summary | Natural Stat Trick | HockeyViz]

First Period: Quick strike

The Islanders had a couple of spirited opening shifts, and then an early penalty from a spirited forecheck. Hudson Fasching pursued Jaccob Slavin past the side of the Carolina net, but his stick joined the gangle and Slavin went down.

Immediately off the ensuing faceoff, the Hurricanes ran a set play that set up Sebastian The Lesser Aho for a one-timer to open scoring. The Isles forwards pursued to the point and Adam Pelech was slow to read the quick play, leaving an open passing lane and open shot for Aho.

The Islanders got the next two power plays, which were mostly and predictably unimpressive. However, at the start of the first one, with Paul Stastny off for breaking Sebastian The Greater Aho’s stick on a faceoff, the Isles ran a virtually identical set play. Instead of shooting the one-timer, however, Bo Horvat one-timed a pass to Anders Lee for a redirection at the top of the crease. That required a low save for Raanta, but I prefer Horvat would have shot.

Overall it was a somewhat wide open first period for these two defensively disciplined teams, or at least one with a lot of back-and-forth rushes, even if those rushes often ended in the boards rather than at the net.

Second Period: Couple of goals, same deficit

The Hurricanes began the second period with a dizzying series of cross-ice passes that very nearly resulted in a goal, but for a timely clamp by Ryan Pulock at the doorstep. The crowd thought Stefan Noesen had scored, and so did whoever controls the in-arena goal celebrations, but Noesen knew he didn’t and immediately transitioned to complaining for a call.

One or two penalties could have been called on the play, but not on Pulock for what he did to keep Noesen from scoring. (It was a reminder, in contrast, of Kotkaniemi clamping down on Brock Nelson’s hand during a wraparound attempt int he first, which wasn’t called — amazing when you think of how often anything above the hands is whistled.)

So the Isles dodged an early goal there, but it only delayed it 47 seconds as the Hurricanes cashed in on the ensuing power play. Brent Burns was set up for a one-time cannon from the point, which Noesen deflected in to make it 2-0.

Just 24 seconds later, Ryan Pulock got the Isles on the board through a nice play with a hilarious finish. Pulock jumped up from the point to intercept a breakout, get tripped, and flub his shot as he stumbled over the tripper’s stick. The changeup fooled Raanta, who put his paddle out only to ramp the slow shot up and into the net.

Not long afterward, Mathew Barzal had a great chance to tie it up when Bo Horvat took a stretch pass on the left wing and sent a pass to the Isles returnee right in the slot. Barzal either tried to go far post or five-hole but only got it up into Raanta’s midsection.

Alas, the Isles were soon shorthanded again as Kyle Palmieri took a high-sticking penalty. This one had some threats, but the Isles finally killed one off.

Less than a minute later though, Brock Nelson was whistled for a weak, or at least quite embellished roughing call against Jesperi Kotkaniemi on a defensive zone draw. Perhaps from adjustments or perhaps from enough rolls of the dice, but this was the least threatening Hurricanes power play of all.

The Isles got the next call, at 12:52, on a nice burst of speed by Fasching. He gained ground in the Canes zone going against two defensemen, and his move on the second one elicited a trip by Brady Skjel, who left his leg out.

No dice, of course. And after that power play, the Islanders didn’t generate anything the rest of the period, and spent the waning minutes under considerable pressure.

Third Period: Smothered and stymied

With a one-goal margin, official shots were even through much of the third period, but all of the Grade A chances belonged to the Hurricanes, who were repeatedly denied by Ilya Sorokin.

The Isles went nearly five minutes down the stretch without a shot, before a Canes icing allowed the Isles to get the Horvat line away from Jordan Staal for a moment. That led to a close doorstep chance for Horvat and Anders Lee and a drawn penalty. As play continued behind the net, Burns broke Barzal’s stick to give the Islanders their fourth power play of the night, with 4:59 left in regulation.

The Hurricanes’ smothering penalty kill continued to choke the life out of what fumes remained form the Isles’ man advantage. The best chance was from the villainous Aho, who was stopped by a jump-on-the-grenade sacrificial check by the smaller but more righteous Aho.

The Isles pulled Sorokin for a sixth attacker with 1:30 left but had trouble gaining the zone with control. When they finally did, they had a few reaches for chances that forced an icing with 42 seconds to go. They got a couple of looks, including a Brock Nelson one-timer that Raanta handled, and had a threatening scramble to end the game. But it wasn’t enough.


  • Great to see Barzal back, but the Jordan Staal line did a great job preventing his line with Horvat and Lee from getting any traction. Meanwhile, the Nelson line and the Pageau lines, which sometimes pick up the slack, didn’t get much going either.
  • Tough game for Pelech, I think.
  • Not terribly surprising to see the coaching staff not putting a lot of trust in nor responsibility on Samuel Bolduc, making his NHL playoff debut. With special teams and a close game, he got just four shifts each in the second and third periods, and totaled 8:51 of TOI on the night.
  • On that note, it would be interesting to see this series with Alex Romanov healthy and back in form, but that’s not the universe we’re in.
  • Knee-Jerk Reaction to Game 1: Nothing too unexpected here. We’ll need Sorokin to have epic games for the Isles to win the series. We’ll also need one of these forward lines to break through in the road games. Or, you know, the power play to convert.

Up Next

Game 2 is Wednesday, same place, same teams.