It is OK for the Islanders and their fans to be angry about the officiating in Sunday’s game against the Hurricanes at UBS Arena. Absolutely it is.
A bad goaltender interference penalty on Zach Parise indirectly led to a five-on-three power play for Carolina and the game’s first goal.
A strange “embellishment” penalty on Mathew Barzal soon thereafter denied the Islanders a five-on-three of their own.
And all that occurred in the first 8:43 of Game 4 of the teams’ first-round playoff series.
So yes, it’s OK. By all means. Be angry.
But referee Wes McCauley had a lot of help from the Islanders themselves in the events that led to a 5-2 victory by the Hurricanes that gave Carolina a 3-1 edge in the series.
No one forced Matt Martin to insert himself into a preexisting scrum at the end of the first period that led to a “stinger” of a power-play goal early in the second, as coach Lane Lambert put it.
No one forced Alexander Romanov to turn over the puck and set up Sebastian Aho for the third Carolina goal.
The Islanders did almost everything wrong during a frustrating afternoon against an injury-riddled opponent.
The power play was 0-for-3. The penalty kill was only 2-for-5. The score was 4-0 early in the third period before the Islanders showed a little life.
It was way too late for that.
The Islanders looked strong for the first couple of minutes, outshooting Carolina 5-0. Then Jalen Chatfield shoved Parise into Antti Raanta and the world turned.
“You [reporters] saw it,” Parise said. “You guys can make your decision, but I feel like I got pushed onto him. A little deflating. But you can’t get fixated on the officiating. You have to beat them, too, sometimes. You have to overcome that. Good calls or bad calls, you have to keep playing.
“But, of course, it’s deflating when you’ve got the energy coming out, exciting building, and all of a sudden you’re down five-on-three and one goes in.”
Ryan Pulock was called for boarding after sending Jack Drury into the wall face-first, giving Carolina 1:11 of potential five-on-three time.
Seth Jarvis converted past a helpless Ilya Sorokin at 4:05 of the first period.
Later, the Islanders would have had a five-on-three of their own if not for Barzal getting that embellishment call upon being cross-checked into the boards by Brent Burns.
Barzal, furious, skated toward McCauley to argue. Lambert later said he could not understand the penalty.
But the real back-breaker was the Martin penalty, which was not in dispute. It led to a power-play goal by Martin Necas that turned UBS Arena stone silent.
As electric as the new barn was on Friday night for the Islanders’ 5-1 victory in the first playoff game at UBS, it was that quiet on Sunday.
Other than expletives directed at the officials, of course. One voice rose from the crowd and yelled, “You should all be fired!”
But while there were boos early in the game aimed at the referees, by the time the second period ended, most of the boos were aimed at the guys in blue, not in black-and-white stripes.
“When you’re wasting your energy on penalties, it’s going to kill you,” Bo Horvat said. “We have to find ways to play five-on-five and draw penalties instead of taking them right now.”
While Lambert disagreed with those two key early calls, he did agree that his team took “a couple of undisciplined penalties, no question.”
Where do the Islanders go from here? To Raleigh for the next game on Tuesday, per the NHL playoff schedule.
Beyond that looms an uncertain future for an era that seems to be running on fumes.
Can the Islanders turn this around? Stranger things have happened, and again, the Hurricanes’ injuries are piling up. (Yes, that might be good news for the Rangers in a potential second-round series.)
But Sunday’s debacle was as dismal as it gets.
The Hurricanes’ verified Twitter account even got into the act, posting, “We’d go around hitting people if we lived on Long Island, too.”
Yikes! Those could be fighting words for Islanders fans if the Hurricanes return to UBS for a Game 6.
But first the Islanders have to make that happen with a luckier, better, smarter Game 5.