The New York Islanders kept their season and Stanley Cup hopes alive for one more game. Facing elimination, they stepped up and controlled Game 5, scoring the early goal and never looking back. The Carolina Hurricanes made the game close, scoring in the second period and the final 10 minutes of regulation but the Islanders held on to win 3-2 and force a sixth game in the series.
Suddenly, the Islanders have life in the first round. After the Game 4 loss, they looked like a team destined for an early playoff exit. However, Game 5 was a reminder that they won’t go down without a fight and might win the series in the end.
Sorokin Puts Together a Vezina-Level Performance
The first round has been a disappointment for goaltender Ilya Sorokin. He put together a remarkable season but hasn’t played at the same level in the series. He entered Game 5 allowing 12 goals on 133 shots and was coming off a performance where he allowed five goals. The recent game was his best performance of the series.
Sorokin saved 34 of the 36 shots he faced and willed the Islanders to a victory. Along with stopping the plethora of shots, he also made multiple game-changing saves. Specifically, his save in the second period with the Hurricanes on the power play, where he went from post to post to prevent the Hurricanes from taking over the game.
The Hurricanes scored late in the third period and looked poised to complete the comeback. They had the momentum and were starting to create scoring chances and find shots in the slot and near the net. However, Sorokin closed out the game with multiple big saves and helped secure the 3-2 Islanders win.
The Islanders needed this type of performance from Sorokin. In a game the Hurricanes created scoring chances and looked poised to take over, he secured the victory and was the best player on the ice. Now, the Islanders are hoping they can receive two more lights-out performances from him to win the series.
Barzal’s Big Goal
When the Islanders signed Mathew Barzal to an eight-year extension in the offseason, they hoped he’d become the elite player that could carry the offense. This season, he displayed his playmaking ability and proved that he is one of the league’s best passers, distributing 37 assists in only 58 games played but he never stepped up as a goal scorer, scoring only 14 goals. His unwillingness to shoot the puck made him a frustrating player to watch since he had the ability to round out his game but never did. The Islanders finally saw a glimpse of Barzal’s potential in Game 2 when he scored a goal with a great shot but he had his star moment in Game 5 with a game-changing goal.
The Islanders had a one-goal lead late in the second period and both teams were down a skater with Jordan Staal and Noah Dobson in the penalty box. Barzal stole the puck on the backcheck and immediately skated up the ice to create an odd-man rush opportunity. Hurricanes’ goaltender Antti Raanta was anticipating a cross-ice pass but instead, Barzal shot the puck past his glove to give the Islanders a 3-1 lead.
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The Islanders only have three skaters that have scored two goals in this series, Barzal, Brock Nelson, and Kyle Palmieri. In a series where the offense has struggled, Barzal is starting to elevate his game and shoot the puck on the net. The Islanders can come back in this series and will only do so if their best skaters step up, specifically their 25-year-old forward who is starting to tap into his shooting ability.
The Puck Finally Bounces Islanders’ Way
The Islanders haven’t been able to catch a break in this series. A lot of penalties have been called against them, albeit some of which have been their own undoing, forcing them to play shorthanded against a potent Hurricanes’ power play. Likewise, the puck has bounced in the Hurricanes’ favor, creating unexpected opportunities and quick scoring chances that have impacted close games. In Game 5, the Islanders caught a lot of breaks and they took advantage to win the game 3-2.
In the first period, Pierre Engvall found the puck off a turnover right in front of the net, catching Raanta by surprise. With a quick shot, he scored his first goal of the series and gave the Islanders the early lead. In the second period, the Islanders scored without a doubt the luckiest goal of the series. Engvall, who was a force in the offensive zone throughout the game, shot the puck from the point and it went up high on Hurricanes’ skater Sebastian Aho and hit him in the face. The shot sent him sprawling to the ice while the puck landed right by Nelson who flicked it into the net to give the Islanders a 2-0 lead.
Two of the Islanders’ three goals came from lucky bounces. In a game where they needed some luck or a break or two to go their way, they found a few and used them to control the game.
Islanders’ Forecheck Sets Tone in Game 5
With the early goal, the Islanders had a lead in the first period for the first time in the first round and for the first time in a playoff game since Game 5 of the 2020 Eastern Conference Final. With the lead, the Islanders set the tone and controlled the pace of the game, something they weren’t able to do in the first four games of the series.
They established a strong forecheck and forced the Hurricanes to go the full length of the ice for scoring chances. The Islanders were able to chip the puck into the offensive zone and allow their defensive forwards to impose their will along the boards. By the third period, the Hurricanes’ skaters were exhausted and out of gas, allowing the Islanders to seal the 3-2 victory.
Mistakes Almost Cost Islanders Game 5
The Islanders put together their best game of the series. While Game 3 was a four-goal victory, they scored four goals in the final four minutes to pull away with the 5-1 victory whereas in Game 5, they were in control from start to finish. That said, the errors almost left them with a loss and eliminated from the playoffs.
The Hurricanes’ first goal came from sloppy play by the Islanders in the defensive zone and it allowed defenseman Jalen Chatfield to find an open shot from the point. A redirected puck by Paul Stastny cut the Islanders’ lead in half and for the first time in the game, gave the Hurricanes momentum.
With a 3-1 lead halfway through the third period, the Islanders were caught napping in their own zone. With the puck behind the net, Hurricanes’ forward Stefan Noesen created a turnover and sent a centering pass to Aho who scored his third goal of the series with a quick shot. Throughout the series, the errors have cost the Islanders and in Game 5, the miscues made the game close and almost allowed the Hurricanes to complete the comeback.
Other Takeaways From the Islanders’ Win
- The Nelson-led line, which includes Palmieri and Engvall, combined for two goals and three assists in the game. It was the Islanders’ best line offensively and the three skaters will need to step up in Game 6 as well.
- Casey Cizikas didn’t record a point but put together his best game of the series. He led all forwards with 19:04 of ice time and blocked three shots. He was also on the ice for the final two minutes to help seal the victory as he defended the middle of the ice against the Hurricanes with an extra skater.
- Bo Horvat assisted on the Barzal goal and now has a two-game point streak. He’s struggled offensively in this series but is starting to heat up and can provide the scoring spark that the Islanders need in Game 6.
What’s Next for the Islanders
Game 6 will be Friday night, April 28 at UBS Arena. The Islanders once again face elimination and need to step up in front of the home crowd and force a winner-take-all game. After a disappointing 5-2 defeat in Game 4, the Islanders hope to bounce back on their home ice and control the game from the opening puck drop to not only keep their season alive but put all the pressure on the Hurricanes.
The Islanders have been outplayed for the majority of the first round. However, Game 5 proved that they can win this series. It’s a tall task for the Islanders to win two more games to complete the series comeback but they have the players to make it happen.