The New York Islanders put together their worst playoff performance since the Game 5 loss in the 2021 Semifinal series against the Tampa Bay Lightning where they lost the game 8-0. They looked undisciplined, hapless offensively, and were outplayed in all three zones, allowing the Carolina Hurricanes to win Game 4 by a decisive score of 5-2.
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The Islanders now have their back against the wall and one more loss will have them eliminated in the first round. They stepped up in Game 3 with four unanswered goals allowing them to pull away with a 5-1 win but otherwise, they’ve been outplayed in this series. The Hurricanes meanwhile controlled Game 4 and with the win, they have a 3-1 series lead and are one victory away from advancing to the second round for the third year in a row.
Islanders Miscues Cost Them Game 4
Game 4 felt like a re-run of the previous games in the first round in a lot of ways. Matt Martin took a penalty as the first period expired, mirroring his Game 2 penalty which cost the Islanders. The pileup of penalties, especially early on in the game had the Islanders trailing 2-0 in the second period, a familiar situation for a team that trailed 2-0 early in both Game 1 and Game 2. The Hurricanes’ power play wasn’t great but with five opportunities, it didn’t need to be and it allowed them to take control of the game, as they did in their previous two victories in the series.
Then there was the Alexander Romanov error past the halfway point in the second period. He tried to shoot the puck into the offensive zone to start up the offense with the chip and chase. Instead, he mishandled the puck and allowed the Hurricanes to find an odd-man rush opportunity and their third goal of the game. The playoffs are when mistakes are amplified and great teams capitalize on their opponent’s errors. The Hurricanes took advantage of the Islanders’ mistakes in Game 4, giving them a comfortable 5-2 win.
A noticeable difference in the Islanders under first-year head coach Lane Lambert has been their aggressive play. For the majority of the season, it’s helped the team out, but it’s also led to more mistakes and the occasional costly errors. In the first round, the style of play cost them as it’s given the Hurricanes prime scoring chances and control of the game.
Islanders Fall Flat Again Offensively
The offense once again was awful. The Islanders failed to score through the first two periods of play and couldn’t even generate pressure on the Hurricanes. The 5-2 final score is deceiving for how the game played out as two late goals from the Islanders made it seem closer than it actually was.
Through the first 30 minutes, the Islanders only had 11 shots on goal. After generating 37 shots on the net in Game 3, resulting in five goals, it looked like the recipe for success in this series was to pressure Hurricanes’ goaltender Antti Raanta into making a surplus of big saves. Instead of leaning into that strategy, the Islanders took a step back, failing to put pucks on the net and create instant scoring opportunities or second-chance shots.
The Hurricanes’ defense stepped up at the blue line and prevented the Islanders from establishing an offensive zone presence. Likewise, they controlled the puck and the pace of play, preventing scoring chances altogether. However, the Islanders needed their offense to step up in Game 4 and it failed to do so. By the time they scored in the third period, the game was already out of reach and the series looked all but over as well. They have only scored 11 goals through four games and the hapless offense leaves them with only one win in the first round.
Islanders Power Play Struggles Again
The theme of the series is that the Hurricanes are taking advantage of their power plays while the Islanders are not. In Game 4, the Islanders had three opportunities to score on the power play and failed to do so. The unit couldn’t establish a rhythm and barely applied pressure to the Hurricanes with only two shots on goal.
The Islanders’ power play has been a liability all season, scoring on only 15.77% of its opportunities. The unit almost cost them a playoff spot as they couldn’t find the back of the net on the man advantage, often losing one-goal games because of it. In the first round, it’s been their downfall with the Islanders only scoring one goal on the power play. The Hurricanes meanwhile have five goals on the man advantage and it’s been the difference in the series, especially in close games. In Game 1, the Hurricanes scored twice on the power play and ultimately won the game 2-1 to take an early series lead which they haven’t relinquished since.
Pelech is the Bright Spot in Loss
In a game where nothing went right for the Islanders, defenseman Adam Pelech put together a strong performance. He scored the team’s first goal of the game with a shot from the point that found the back of the net. Along with the goal, he had three hits, three shots on goal, and 20:16 of ice time as he played a big role on the defense in the game.
If the Islanders come back in this series, they’ll need their defensemen to contribute from the point. Pelech provided a spark in the Game 4 loss but it was too late as the Islanders were trailing by four goals when he found the back of the net. However, his goal provides a glimmer of hope for how the team can find offense in this series and defeat a Hurricanes team that has looked unbeatable so far.
Other Takeaways From the Islanders’ Loss
- Bo Horvat scored late in the third period, finding the back of the net on a breakaway opportunity. In a series where he has been invisible, failing to record a point until Game 4, the goal was a promising sign. The Islanders will need him to step up more than ever if they hope to come back in this series.
- Mathew Barzal was a non-factor in this game. He only had 14:38 of ice time and two shots on the goal. After scoring a game-tying goal in Game 2, it looked like he was back to being a reliable contributor to the offense but in the last two games, he’s been anything but.
- Raanta hasn’t been great in this series but he stepped up in Game 4, saving 27 shots to close out the 5-2 victory. Additionally, he made multiple big saves late in the game as the Islanders started to create scoring chances to help seal the win and put the Hurricanes one win away from advancing to the next round.
What’s Next for the Islanders
The Islanders head back on the road for Game 5 which will be on April 25. Beating the Hurricanes on their home ice will be a tall task as they have been one of the best home teams in the playoffs in recent years. The last time the Hurricanes lost at home was Game 7 of the 2022 second-round series against the New York Rangers where they lost 6-2. The last time they lost two home playoff games in a series was in the second round in 2021 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. They have gone 9-1 in their last 10 home playoff games and the Islanders will have their work cut out for them as a result.
The Islanders’ season is down to one more loss. They must win three games in a row against a team that has had their number in this series and all season. The Hurricanes have won six of the last eight games against them and are looking to win the series on home ice. The odds are stacked against the Islanders but they have the roster to turn this series around.