Game 2 between the New York Islanders and the Carolina Hurricanes started out looking like a re-run of Game 1 but had a completely different ending. The Islanders trailed 2-0 in the second period but unlike Game 1, they battled back with three unanswered goals. For the first time in the first round, the offense was alive and overwhelming the Hurricanes, and the team looked poised to even up the series at one win apiece.
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Unfortunately, the Hurricanes scored a goal late in the third period to steal the momentum and force overtime. Then they scored the dagger goal in overtime with a Jordan Staal cross-ice pass to Jesper Fast to take Game 2 and a commanding 2-0 series lead.
The Islanders have played well in the first round, going toe-to-toe with the Hurricanes in the first two games. However, the mistakes and minor details have been the difference in this series. The Islanders are suddenly backed into a corner and need to win on their home ice to avoid an early playoff exit.
Small Mistakes Are Islanders’ Undoing
The Islanders started Game 2 on the wrong foot with a surplus of penalties. While it didn’t cost them in the same way that it did in Game 1, where the Hurricanes scored twice on the man advantage to win the game 2-1, it did set the Islanders back. The high-sticking call on Samuel Bolduc, the interference call on Matt Martin, and the undisciplined play resulting in 12 penalty minutes prevented them from establishing a rhythm and allowed the Hurricanes to control the game early on.
Then came the error of the night that resulted in a consequential goal. On the penalty kill, Stefan Noesen shot the puck along the boards and defenseman Sebastian Aho tipped it into his own net with an unfortunate deflection. Ilya Sorokin never saw the puck as it bounced past him and into the back of the net, giving the Hurricanes a 2-0 lead.
The Islanders cut down on their mistakes after allowing the goal in the second period and managed to make the game close. However, with a lead in the third period they allowed another goal on a costly mistake that ultimately decided the game. Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin shot the puck from the goalline and it hit off Sorokin’s head and into the net to tie the game.
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The few mistakes and the minor details have been the difference in this series. The Islanders are trailing 2-0 in the first round but by cutting down on the errors and miscues, the series could be there for the taking. The Hurricanes haven’t overwhelmed or overpowered the Islanders but they’ve controlled the series by making minimal mistakes and taking advantage of the errors of their opposition.
Hurricanes Defensemen Take Over Game
Slavin was the best skater on the ice in Game 2 despite only playing 19:11. He started the scoring for the Hurricanes with his centering pass to Paul Stastny to give his team an early 1-0 lead. With the Hurricanes trailing late in the game, he was the one that forced overtime with his shot that deflected off Sorokin and into the net. Along with his offensive zone production, he created turnovers in the defensive zone and blocked two shots to lead the team to a 4-3 overtime win.
The Hurricanes’ defensemen have controlled the series through two games. Game 1 saw Brent Burns assist on both of the team’s goals on the power play with a cross-ice pass to forward Sebastian Aho and a shot from the point that Noesen deflected into the net. In Game 2, Slavin was the defenseman that took over and gave the Hurricanes an edge, contributing in all three zones and adding a spark to the offense from the point.
This series has displayed the gap between a good and an elite defensive unit. The Islanders have a unit that can limit opposing offenses and keep games low-scoring. The Hurricanes have a defense that not only keeps games low-scoring but also helps out the offense with strong plays from the blue line and passes that set up the rush. The gap between the two defensive units has given the Hurricanes a distinct advantage and an early 2-0 series lead.
Palmieri Starts the Turnaround
The Islanders were struggling to generate shots on the net and create scoring chances. That changed with Kyle Palmieri stepping up halfway through the second period. He found the puck in the offensive zone and on a wrap-around, he backhanded the puck past Hurricanes’ goaltender Antti Raanta. The goal cut the Hurricanes’ lead in half and both gave the Islanders momentum and started the comeback.
In this series, the Islanders need to get shots and force Raanta to make big saves. In each of the first two games, they’ve only generated 26 shots on the goal. However, Palmieri started to turn things around with his backhand shot in the second period. The Islanders are starting to find open shots and take advantage, sending the puck on the net and daring Raanta to stop them. If they are going to come back in the series, they must continue to send pucks on the net and start winning the shot battle.
Islanders Stars Keep Game Close
After a lackluster Game 1 where the entire offense struggled in the 2-1 loss, Mathew Barzal made his mark in Game 2. He was a constant threat on the ice and was pressuring the Hurricanes’ defense with his speed and playmaking ability. As the second period was ending, he collected the puck on the rush and shot it past Raanta for his first goal of the game and the series. Moreover, his goal tied the game and gave the Islanders momentum heading into the third period. Barzal is back to full strength and more importantly, showing that he can and will shoot the puck to help out the offense, something he was prone to do in the regular season.
To give the Islanders the lead, the team’s best goalscorer stepped up and scored his first goal of the playoffs. Brock Nelson scored 36 goals in the regular season and in a tie game, he slipped past Hurricanes center Martin Necas to find the puck with a shooting lane and only Raanta in his way. He zipped it past Raanta’s glove to give the Islanders the lead and a near victory in Game 2.
The Islanders are seeing their best players step up on the offensive end of the ice. While the team is trailing 2-0 in the series, the star players stepping up has been a promising sign. If they come back in this series, Nelson, Barzal, and the other top six forwards will play a big role and allow them to overcome the series deficit.
Other Takeaways From the Islanders’ Overtime Loss
- Sorokin allowed four goals in the overtime loss but he made 32 saves and kept the game close. He hasn’t been at his best but this series can’t be blamed on him as he’s kept the Islanders in this series with multiple remarkable saves.
- Two of the Islanders’ three goals went to Raanta’s glove side. His glove can be a weak spot for him and something the offense can exploit in the rest of the series.
- Adam Pelech and Noah Dobson were the team’s best defensive pairing in the game. The two skaters combined for three assists and three blocked shots and made a significant impact in all three zones.
What’s Next for the Islanders
After two rough losses on the road, the Islanders will head back home for Game 3 for the first playoff game at UBS Arena. The Islanders can’t afford to trail 3-0. They must step up in front of their home crowd to make this series a close one.
The Islanders have lost both Game 1 and Game 2 by only one goal. Interestingly, they’ve outscored the Hurricanes 4-3 in even-strength play. However, the bottom line is that the Islanders are down two games in this series and must put together their best performances of the year in the next two games.