In a historic first playoff game at their still-new, currently-named-after-a-bank arena in Elmont, the New York Islanders set NHL playoff history on their way to taking Game 3, 5-1 over the Carolina Hurricanes.
The final score completely masks what was yet another nailbiter in this tight series. Game 3 could have gone either wya, and sideways, for 56 minutes before Kyle Palmieri gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead right before the end of their power play — Yes, a power play! And yes, a power play goal! — with 3:51 to go.
Before the raucous building could fully settle into final-minutes nerves, Matt Martin added an insurance snipe — yes, a Matt Martin snipe! — streaking down the left wing and beating Antti Raanta on the near post, 44 seconds after Palmieri’s goal.
Down two, the Hurricanes pulled Raanta for a sixth attacker, but the explosion was only halfway over. By the time the Isles’ barrage was done, the Islanders had set a new franchise, and NHL, playoff record by scoring four goals in 2:18. The record they broke was nearly 80 years old, held by the 1944 Montreal Canadiens.
Here’s all four:
There were tomfoolery scrums in front of the Islanders bench with 2 seconds left, so the refs decided to run the clock out and end the game as they sorted out the calls.
The bad blood is there. The tight series remains so after three games. Rod Brind’Amour — who gives a “why’d you kick my dog?” expression better than any other NHL coach — will have his ironic penalty complaints. And these teams will go back at it soon with Game 4 coming Sunday afternoon.
The first period was a high-octane, back-and-forth affair, though the Isles were officially outshot 15-7 by the shoot-from-everywhere Canes. Ilya Sorokin had to come up big a few times, especially as Martin Necas jammed at his pads (then Casey Cizikas made a critical intervention to clear), but it felt fair that the teams reached the first intermission still scoreless.
The officiating was a little different, in that the Islanders actually received some calls. I thought the first one, Shayne Gostisbehere called for holding Casey Cizikas, was a little soft — until I saw an even softer call on Kyle Palmieri for hooking Jesper Fast off an offensive zone faceoff.
So it was going to be one of those kinds of games, where random things are called really tightly (or, arguably, nonsensically), while other similar or worse things are completely ignored
Those were the only two calls of the first period.
Second Period: First goal, for both sides
Then the Isles were convicted of the first two penalties in the second — the first one a soft but easy hooking call on Scott Mayfield, where he was thinking about slowing Sebastian Aho down at center ice after Mayfield lost the puck in his feet. The next call was a bit absurd, Adam Pelech called for “tripping” Jesperi Kotkaniemi when both came together at the same point in the slot.
After the Islanders killed both of those, Casey Cizikas opened the building’s playoff scoring account with a wobbly one-timer off a heads-up pass from Ryan Pulock. Cizikas had just been thrown down away from the play and without a call, so there was a nice irony that he got back on his feet in time to receive the pass.
A minute later, the Islanders briefly thought they’d made it 2-0 when Hudson Fasching converted a pass low in the slot. Except, well convert isn’t quite accurate, as his shot went off the post, off Raanta’s skate, then 75% over the line...before Seth Jarvis made an insane clear off the line with his glove. Officially, play didn’t even stop as the linesman was right on it.
Then, a pivotal turn of events: Kotkaniemi was called for a soft-but-technically-correct hold on Anders Lee in the Hurricanes crease. This was after the Isles were buzzing, and after Fasching’s near-goal, so the call felt like the refs were calling by momentum rather than by reason.
Anyway, the Isles had an extra advantage on the ensuing power play after the Sebastian Aho The Evil broke his stick. But Barzal passed to the point within range of Aho’s skate, so they lost the zone and the Hurricanes were able to return to “full” shorthanded strength. And sure enough, soon after, Barzal’s pass for Bo Horvat was poked away, and the Hurricanes went the other way on an odd-man shorthanded rush, which Jesper Fast converted to tie it at 1-1.
(Earlier, by the way, Fast crashed into Sorokin and pushed him over into the net, but Sorokin somehow kept the puck out, and it was as if the fact the puck never crossed the line was cause for the refs to not even consider goalie interference. Fast was touched on his way in, but not driven into Sorokin. It’s a textbook interference, and perfect example of some stuff being called tightly and other stuff being called not at all.)
So Fast’s goal was a big blow with just under five minutes to go in the second.
Third Period: Sure we shouldn’t decline penalties?
The Islanders came out focused and disciplined, and their play perhaps earned two power plays in the first 10 minutes, and the only three power plays total in the period. But it’s the Isles power play, and it’s the Hurricanes penalty kill, so mostly it just created nerves and anxiety.
The Isles’ best chance came at even strength, when Brock Nelson was sent in all alone with a glorious chance through the slot. But he faked a slapshot, which I think took something off the wrist shot that followed. With Nelson’s lethal wrister, and Raanta in goal, I want him to skip the fake every time.
On the third Islanders power play, which Brind’Amour protested loudly, Brady Skjei was called for high sticking on Palmieri, the kind of call we’ve seen multiple times throughout this series. The play led to a golden chance for Noah Dobson in the slot, but he didn’t place it right, and Raanta made the save. With Dobson missing that hane on the delayed penalty, in that moment, it felt like the power play was already wasted before it even started.
And fittingly, it kind of was! But not quite Palmieri’s nifty deflection goal came as time expired on the penalty.
The monkey was off the power play’s back, and the Isles had one more late lead.
This time, they held it. Martin’s insurance goal built comfort.
With Raanta puled for an extra attacker, Scott Mayfield made an interception and then sent an empty-netter from his own zone to make it 4-1 at 18:11. Sixteen seconds later, Anders Lee piled on by tipping in a Casey Cizikas shot to make it 5-1.
By the way, amidst the onslaught, Necas got away with this:
Jean-Gabriel Pageau is a New York Islander. pic.twitter.com/GWz7HLamT1— x - Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) April 22, 2023
You can get fined or suspended if you’re on the bench and punch someone on the ice; you’d think sucker punching someone on the other team’s bench would be at least a fine, too.
Ah, but that just added to the fun.
The building and fans got the party they had to wait an extra year for. All the elements of a satisfying I-was-there playoff experience were there: A game teetering on a knife’s edge. An explosion of goals to build comfort and enable some release. And some tussles and wrestling as the clock wound down, to build venom and bad blood for the next one.
Short turnaround: Game 4 is 1:00 EDT start on Sunday.