Carolina Hurricanes' Sebastian Aho (20) shoots the puck at New...

Carolina Hurricanes' Sebastian Aho (20) shoots the puck at New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov (40) while battling Islanders' Ryan Pulock (6) during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, April 20, 2024.  Credit: Karl B DeBlaker

RALEIGH, N.C. — It’s still a long way before it’s determined how the Islanders will fare against the highly favored Hurricanes in their first-round playoff rematch.

Ultimately, Game 1 may prove to be a huge missed opportunity. Or it might become a harbinger of an upset.

The Islanders played the way they wanted to and locked the free-shooting Hurricanes into a tighter game. They generated strong scoring chances. But Hurricanes goalie Frederik Andersen proved to be the difference as the Islanders lost, 3-1, on Saturday at PNC Arena.

They can be both encouraged and frustrated.

“Probably a mix of both,” coach Patrick Roy said. “Encouraged because I thought we played a really solid game. We did a lot of good things out there. It was a hard-fought game, but we had our chances. Frustrated because we had our chances.”

Stefan Noesen scored the winner at 3:44 of the third period as he got to the crease for a backhand. Martin Necas added an empty-netter at 18:28.

Game 2 will be played Monday night before the series switches to UBS Arena for Game 3 on Thursday night.

“We’ll build off this,” Anders Lee said. “It’s all you can do. It’s a series. It’s tough to drop the first one, but it’s how we respond. How we take this. How we feel about ourselves. I thought we played a solid hockey game.”

Andersen, whose return on March 7 from a blood-clotting issue that had sidelined him since Nov. 2 coincided with the Hurricanes’ 16-4-1 run to finish the season, made 33 saves. Semyon Varlamov stopped 23 shots. Each team had eight high-danger chances, according to

“There’s definitely a lot of positives,” Kyle Palmieri said. “We didn’t get it done but, as a group, we played a solid game. We did our best to support each other on the breakouts and make sure we weren’t spending too much time in our defensive zone. They’re a team that throws a lot at the net. We did a pretty good job of boxing out and blocking shots [21] and made it tough on them to really get momentum.”

The Hurricanes eliminated the Islanders in six games last season, with four of them decided by one goal and the Islanders losing twice in overtime.

The Islanders entered this series knowing the Hurricanes had a distinct advantage on special teams. The Hurricanes’ penalty kill ranked first in the NHL and their power play was second. The Islanders finished 32nd (last) and 19th, respectively.

So staying out of the penalty box was an unsaid priority for the Islanders. Yet Lee was called for an offensive-zone hold on Brady Skjei at 1:22 of the first period as he tried to get around the defenseman to the Hurricanes’ crease. Skjei appeared to go down to the ice relatively easily, yet it still was a penalty.

Thirteen seconds later, Evgeny Kuznetsov lifted a shot — the Hurricanes’ first — to the short side from the left on the power play for a 1-0 lead.

“It was early in the game,” Roy said. “It didn’t affect us. We missed a clear and they made a great play and it was a great shot. We scored right after that.”

Rookie center Kyle MacLean, elevated to the third line with Jean-Gabriel Pageau (lower body) unavailable, stuffed in the rebound of Lee’s tip at 8:20 of the first period to tie it at 1-1.

The Islanders killed off the Hurricanes’ other two power plays but went 0-for-2 on the man advantage, though they had three shots after Noesen was whistled for high-sticking defenseman Mike Reilly in the offensive zone at 11:28 of the third period.

The Islanders outshot the Hurricanes 13-6 in the second period, but Andersen stopped Palmieri’s two-on-one chance at 12:44 and denied Mathew Barzal from the slot off a turnover at 15:27.

Defenseman Noah Dobson opened the third period with two Grade-A chances, hitting the right post 45 seconds in and then having Andersen make a sprawling save with his glove two seconds later.

“It hit the post, went off their goalie’s back and just kind of sat there,” Dobson said. “He made a heck of a save on the rebound. It was unfortunate I wasn’t able to capitalize on that one.

“There was a lot to take from the game that we did well. We didn’t capitalize on our chances and they did. We’re not going to hang our heads here.”

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