Ilya Sorokin #30 of the Islanders reacts during the second period...

Ilya Sorokin #30 of the Islanders reacts during the second period against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 3 at UBS Arena on Thursday, Apr. 25, 2024 in Elmont. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Patrick Roy made a sharp turn on the Islanders’ playoff road and drove into a ditch.

Now the Islanders coach’s skills as a goaltending mechanic will be tested, not only in the short term but more importantly in the offseason, which is coming soon.

That was Roy’s harsh reality after his decision to replace Semyon Varlamov in goal with Ilya Sorokin backfired spectacularly on Thursday night at UBS Arena in Game 3 of a first-round series against the Hurricanes.

Carolina won, 3-2, and leads the series, 3-0, with a chance to end the Islanders’ season on Saturday.

The Islanders outplayed the favored Hurricanes, but lost primarily because of a shaky outing from Sorokin, whom Roy pulled with the Islanders trailing, 3-1, at 7:14 of the second period. Varlamov shut out Carolina from there.

The night was Roy’s lowest moment since he became the Islanders coach in January.

“Sometimes you just want to change the momentum of the game,” he said of pulling Sorokin. He said he “just wanted to get some energy and actually it did work because we scored right after.”

What did he think of Sorokin’s performance?

“I’m going to say this: We win and lose as a team. So I’m not going to go there,” he said. “But what I’m going to say is sometimes we make changes as a coach because we feel like we just want to change the momentum of the game. I’ll leave it to that.”

On Thursday morning, Roy had memorably compared going from Varlamov to Sorokin to trading in a Cadillac for a Ferrari.

But come Thursday night, things could not have gone worse. All the goals Sorokin allowed were from distance, each worse than the previous one.

After Pierre Engvall scored to make it 2-1 early in the second to energize the crowd, Sorokin gave it back at 7:14 of the second period, a softie to Sebastian Aho.

Roy then gave the signal to yank Sorokin, who left the ice and went back down the tunnel toward the locker room, then returned to the tunnel but not to the bench. Finally, he was given a chair to sit on but never removed his helmet.

Sorokin was on the bench without his helmet when the third period began.

Asked what he might say to Sorokin after the debacle, Varlamov said, “It’s part of the job. Things happen and there’s nothing to say.”

Varlamov said he trusted the decision by Roy, a Hall of Fame goaltender himself, not to start him Game 3, even though he had guided the Islanders through their early April surge to a playoff berth.

Before Game 3, Roy said he had gotten a text that morning from his father, who reminded him of a long-ago comment from Roy’s goalie coach with the Canadiens, Francois Allaire.

“[Allaire] made an analogy,” Roy recalled. “He said Brian Hayward, who was my partner at the time, he said he was a Cadillac. It was comfortable. And then I was the Ferrari. Could be a little bit more bumpy.

“So today we’re going with the Ferrari. We had the Cadillac in the first two games, and we’re going with the Ferrari.”

But it turns out going from Hayward to Roy, a Hall of Fame goalie himself, is not quite the same as Varlamov to Sorokin.

There is a bigger-picture problem here for the Islanders: How much does Roy trust Sorokin into the near future, especially after Thursday night’s debacle?

Sorokin has had his ups and downs since Roy arrived, but one thing has not changed: That next season Sorokin will begin playing under an eight-year, $66 million contract that does not expire until the end of the 2031-32 season.

That means that in addition to trying to win this series, Roy could have used some reinforcement that Sorokin can be his guy moving forward.

The fact he did not get it in Game 3 means the Islanders have a potential problem on their hands as they look toward 2024-25 and beyond.

Sorokin, 28, was the team’s No. 1 goalie most of the season, but Varlamov, who turns 36 on Saturday, started eight of 12 games down the stretch as the Islanders finished on an 8-0-1 run to start April.

Now they are one loss away from not even making it to May.


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