New York Islanders head coach Patrick Roy speaks following Game...

New York Islanders head coach Patrick Roy speaks following Game 2 of a Stanley Cup first-round playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C., on April 22, 2024. Credit: AP/Karl B DeBlaker

The all-is-lost reaction to the Islanders’ epically inept Game 2 collapse was easy and, in a worst-case scenario, completely justified.

Based solely upon those awful final 36 minutes, the Islanders enter Thursday night’s Game 3 as their first-round series shifts to UBS Arena in a world of hurt, seemingly not up to the task of competing against the Hurricanes. Not strong enough. Not fast enough. Not capable enough of breaking out of their zone. Not capable of doing anything at the Hurricanes’ blue line other than playing the dump-and-chase game.

In rallying from a three-goal deficit for an all too predictable — if you were paying any sort of attention to how the game was trending — 5-3 win on Monday night in Raleigh, North Carolina, the Hurricanes were dominant in one-on-one battles and puck possession because they were faster to the puck and, worse, the Islanders were too passive. And if the Islanders were too passive because they were too tired while playing the last 36 minutes almost entirely in their zone, well, two wins for the Hurricanes might as well be four.

The total attempts — the sum of shots on net, attempts blocked and missed shots — was a comedically tilted 110-28 for the Hurricanes, though the Islanders surely found nothing amusing about it.

But, seriously, three shots over the final 36 minutes after Anders Lee’s power-play goal made it 3-0? Being outshot 17-1 in the third period and collapsing into a shell trying to protect a 3-1 lead? And, somehow, still giving the Hurricanes too much time and space to skate despite collapsing into a shell? Well, absolutely none of that can happen.

“Let’s put it this way,” Islanders coach Patrick Roy said during Tuesday’s media availability at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow on an off-day for his team, “Carolina is a good hockey team. They did a really good job. I’m not going to take anything away from them. At the same time, we’re going to have to find ways to push.”

So it’s now up to the Islanders to prove whether this take — not limited to this writer — truly is an overreaction to a crushing defeat. Or will it be the Islanders’ truth heading into what would surely feel like an empty offseason full of questions regarding the direction the organization must take in terms of management and player personnel?

The Islanders should be applauded for their late-season resiliency under Roy in rallying to secure third place in the Metropolitan Division. They shut up their critics, at least for the short term.

A meek defeat to the Hurricanes will render that feel-good stretch meaningless.

But through the pall of the gloom-and-doom that accompanied the Islanders back to Long Island are some positives from their unsuccessful trip.

The Islanders lost Game 1, 3-1, but, for the majority of the first two periods were the better team and dictated how the game was played, unlike Game 2. If the Islanders can somehow put together the best parts of Game 1 as they return home — a solid transition game through crisp breakouts, limiting the shot-happy Hurricanes to outside chances then denying rebound opportunities while getting much more traffic to the opponent’s net, they should be able to win at least one of these next two games at UBS Arena.

“We’ve been resilient all year,” said Kyle Palmieri, who opened the scoring in Game 2 by crashing the net. “So, we’re back home now. The focus shifts to getting in front of our fans and getting a win.

“All year, our focus has been on the way we need to play and we didn’t do [that], or got away from the things that we were doing to make ourselves successful. That was very evident. Credit to them, they’re a really good team. They possess the puck really well, they generate a lot. For us to be successful, we need to get the puck out of our zone and move it down to theirs.”

The Islanders are probably fortunate to have two days between Games 2 and 3. There was anger on Monday night after the loss. There was time away from the rink on Tuesday. There will be practice on Wednesday.

And, on Thursday, it will be plain to see whether all this was an overreaction or the brutal truth.


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