The first game of the night to kick off the Stanley Cup Playoffs was not a very open contest. As expected, the Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Islanders played like the two defensive juggernauts they are and did not allow much breathing room for each other.
Both teams came ready to play, and they made it clear early. Lane Lambert and the Islanders made an effort to set the tone early by starting the game with the Martin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck identity line.
The physicality began only fifteen seconds into the game when Ryan Pulock threw a big hit on rookie forward Brandon Drury.
The Hurricanes and Islanders played a defensive game in Game 1.
The Hurricanes answered the Islanders’ physicality by putting their energy towards offense as they quickly threw pucks on net and took a lead in shots.
That idea of getting shots early and testing Ilya Sorokin was a smart way to play as Carolina ended up drawing a penalty not too long into the game. It was a tripping call on Hudson Fasching for getting his stick in the legs of Jaccob Slavin.
Only about four seconds into the powerplay, Aho scores to make it 1-0. Special teams were a huge factor in this game as the Hurricanes went 2/4 on the powerplay while the Islanders went 0/4.
The rest of the first period was back-and-forth between the two teams. Neither team really dominated at even strength, but the Islanders seemed to have trouble establishing any type of sustained pressure in the offensive zone.
Early in the second period, the Hurricanes drew another penalty. In an effort to prevent an easy tap-in goal, Ryan Pulock got called for slashing after attempting to tie up the stick of Stefan Noesen.
Honestly, this was not a great call in that Pulock did not get Noesen’s hands nor did he come down too hard on his stick. It was actually a smart defensive play in many people’s eyes. Regardless, it was called, and it was a smart play by Pulock because he prevented a goal.
The Hurricanes’ power play once again looked like a well-oiled machine and converted. Stefan Noesen tipped in a shot by Brent Burns, meaning he had his revenge and scored his goal anyway.
Noesen was not the only one who got his revenge, though, as Ryan Pulock opened the scoring for the Islanders only about 24 seconds of play after coming out of the box. Brady Skjei came out a bit too high in the zone and allowed Pulock to get a shot around him.
Although Raanta got a piece of it with his stick, he actually tipped the puck into the net.
Carolina controlled the pace for the majority of the remaining time in the second period. They ended up out-shooting the Islanders 15-7. That made the total shots 29-17 in favor of the Hurricanes.
The third period was well-paced and evenly matched for the most part. The Islanders finally began sustaining pressure at even strength at points throughout the period and actually looked a bit better than in the first two periods. Both teams continued to shut down any chances the other had, though.
With just about five minutes left in the game, the Islanders drew a penalty. Brent Burns got caught slashing Mathew Barzal’s stick behind the net and sat for two minutes. The Islanders failed to convert on their power play chance once again, and the Carolina penalty kill remained perfect.
The Islanders pulled Sorokin and put the pressure on late. They had a few good shots, but they just could not beat Antti Raanta. The Islanders ran out of time, and the Hurricanes came away with the win and the 1-0 series lead.
As mentioned at the start, special teams were a huge factor in this one. Although the two teams are such tight defensive-minded teams, both goaltenders had a fantastic Game 1 and deserve a lot of credit for their play.
This series will no doubt be a fun one, and each game will probably be a nail-biter, to say the least. Tune in to watch Game 2 on Wednesday night at 7:00 pm Eastern on ESPN2.