Maybe the Carolina Hurricanes read my game two preview. Or maybe like “The Dark Knight”, the sequel was just better than the original. Either way, Carolina opened up the game and it paid off.
It almost seemed like the rink was larger than it was in game one and that was the difference. Sure, Carolina had some lucky bounces and allowed more goals, but all that matters is the end result. The feel and pace of the game were in their favor and they made it that way.
As for the New York Islanders, they too made the adjustments mentioned in my game two preview. They did a great job at fixing their special teams issues. Although they never received a powerplay, their penalty kill was successful five out of six times, which lived up to their regular season percentage that finished third in the entire league.
Unfortunately for the team, they played a bit weaker at even strength and had some unlucky bounces due to Carolina controlling the pace as mentioned above.
The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the New York Islanders.
The beginning of the first period was almost identical to game one. The puck dropped and within seconds it seemed like the teams were in mid-game form. Then, just like in the first game, New York allowed the first goal.
Jaccob Slavin took a one-timer from on top of the circle, and Paul Stastny was in front to tip it into the net. That one was on the Islanders for allowing Stastny to crowd the front of the net and take away Sorokin’s eyes while having his stick free. He should have been tied up and cleared out to the side of the net.
Although both teams took turns exchanging scoring chances, the play was in favor of the Hurricanes. They were bringing more speed to the game and quick movement in the offensive zone trying to pull New York’s defenders out of position.
The goaltenders on both sides stood strong for the rest of the first period and kept the game 1-0 in favor of Carolina.
After the first, it really seemed like the Hurricanes were taking this one. New York was simply not fast enough to keep up and had lost control over the style of game being played. When the game is that open, the Islanders have trouble clogging up the neutral zone and make mistakes.
It is kind of like when an NFL defense is strong against the pass and weak against the rush. If the opposition spreads out the playing field horizontally, the Islanders crumble.
The second period was much of the same. Give credit to the Islanders’ offense though, as they did succeed similarly to the Hurricanes in the offensive zone once it opened up, they just failed to keep up with the number of goals they allowed.
About seven minutes into the second period is when it began to look like things just were not meant to be for the Islanders. On the powerplay, Carolina got an extremely lucky bounce. On a dump and chase, the wrong Sebastian Aho scored by attempting to bat the puck out of the air.
Instead, it came down right on goal and bounced into the net. It was a freak goal that probably had Islanders fans everywhere facepalming. Stefan Noesen ended up being credited for the goal and it became 2-0 Hurricanes.
Just like game one once again, the Hurricanes found themselves up by two in the second period. The Islanders had created many more scoring chances at this point in the game than they had in game one, but now they began to finish their chances.
They quickly made the game 2-1. Kyle Palmieri scored after circling the net and throwing a Crosby-style backhand past Raanta.
Then, within the final minute of the second period, Mathew Barzal scored to tie the game. After a quick zone entry, Barzal went around Brett Pesce and put it low glove side on Raanta. All of a sudden it looked like a brand-new game.
Through the first half of the third period, it was back and forth and settled down for a bit. Then, about nine minutes into the period, the Islanders got a solid chance off the rush and capitalized. It was Brock Nelson shooting the puck low glove side this time.
It looked like the Islanders could have a book on Raanta now, as two goals were scored in the same spot to give the Islanders their first lead of the series.
The momentum had shifted and the Islanders seemed revived after their comeback. They began generating some high-energy scoring chances off the rush and it looked like they had taken control of the game.
Then came the Hurricanes’ second of two lucky goals. Sorokin made the mistake of hugging the post without closing up the top corner with his head. Jaccob Slavin took advantage of the lazy mistake with a nice snipe in that very spot and tied things up 3-3.
As the clock was winding down, the Islanders found some life in the offensive zone and developed some sustained pressure for part of the final minutes. Then, both teams ran out of time as the game would be going to overtime.
When you have to work overtime, this is the type of overtime you want, short and simple. Not too much went on until about five minutes into overtime when Jesper Fast scored the winner.
In the end, neither team really seemed like they deserved the win. The Islanders made too many careless mistakes that cost them a game they could have won. On the Hurricanes side, they were very fortunate that they were able to capitalize off of unforced errors and did not have to kill off any penalties.
That is playoff hockey for you. Sometimes all you need are a few lucky bounces and it changes the series in a major way. It will definitely be interesting to see if the Islanders can answer when they get back home.
Carolina is one of the best home teams while struggling to win on the road last playoffs. Regardless, it will be a tough series for the Islanders as they find themselves down 2-0.
Carolina looks like it can be more dangerous than people anticipated. Who knows, maybe they’ll put it away in four.