There are peaks and valleys in every hockey season, although not usually from one period to the next. But the Islanders peaked at the right time on Thursday night, rallying for a 6-4 victory over the Hurricanes after blowing a two-goal lead.
Johnny Boychuk’s one-timer beat Carolina goaltender Scott Darling with 4:25 left to give the Islanders the lead for good. It capped a strange game in which the Isles seized a 3-1 lead after a period, fell behind 4-3 after a blah second and pulled out a win with a strong final 20 minutes, their first win in seven games when trailing after two.
Thomas Greiss, who made 28 saves for the Islanders, stopped all 11 shots he faced in the third period. Jordan Eberle scored with 1:18 remaining to give the Islanders a two-goal lead.
“We were snoozing a bit in the second, but we have some great leaders in here. They told us we needed to wake up and we were sharp in the third,” said Mathew Barzal, who had a goal and two assists. “You could feel it that first shift of the third. We came out strong, really raised our level.”
Barzal got clocked in the face by Noah Hanifin’s stick to put the Islanders (10-6-2) on the power play at 6:31 of the third. Barzal got the tying goal started with a pass intended for John Tavares that deflected down near the net to Anders Lee, who slid a no-look pass behind him for Josh Bailey’s slam dunk. It was the Isles’ first power-play goal in 11 tries and tied it at 4 at 7:22.
A game with huge swings like Thursday’s didn’t exactly settle down after that, with both teams coming close to taking the lead. Then Casey Cizikas drove hard up the right side, pulled up, drew two Carolina players close and dropped a puck for Boychuk’s big slap shot and a late go-ahead score.
“It says a lot about where we are as a team right now that we can bounce back like we did,” said Cizikas, whose line with Cal Clutterbuck and Jason Chimera was a force all night. “You’re not going to play every period perfect. It’s how you respond.”
Perfect was a far cry from how the Islanders played during the middle 20 minutes. The Hurricanes (7-6-4) are a young, fast team, and they showed it early and often in the second. They pounced on small breakdowns to pull even and then took the lead on Sebastian Aho’s goal with 51.6 seconds left in the period.
That negated three Islanders goals in the final 3:39 of the first, with Barzal scoring off the rush, Clutterbuck scoring on a shorthanded breakaway and Nick Leddy slapping one that Darling misplayed into the net.
“It was a really good first,” Islanders coach Doug Weight said, “and what happened is we’ve been able to rely on some things, get away with some things in the past . . . In the second, we just got away from everything we did well.”
They were able to get it back, however, and beat a key Metropolitan Division foe that the Islanders will see again on Sunday in Raleigh.
“You go up 3-1, that’s a tough game to lose,” Barzal said. “Our leaders spoke up and made sure we were ready to go in the third.”