RALEIGH, N.C. — A missed assignment off a faceoff and a soft shot off a skate that completely changed direction.
The Islanders didn’t make only one mistake or have only one bad bounce, but those two plays led to Hurricanes goals in the first 3:40 of Sunday’s game to put the Isles in a quick hole. They played a decent game after that, but it was too much to overcome in a 4-2 loss to Carolina that ended a three-game winning streak.
“Hockey’s unpredictable sometimes. Chance for chance, I think we might’ve been the better team,” center Mathew Barzal said. “Some nights, the chances we had could lead to five or six goals. Their goalie was good tonight.”
Cam Ward indeed was strong, making 27 saves. Meanwhile, Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak had no chance on those two early scores. It left him frustrated after only his second start in nine days; his most recent outing had been the teamwide no-show in Dallas on Nov. 10.
On Sunday, coming off Saturday night’s win in Tampa, Halak was the freshest Islander on the ice. But on an early power play, the Hurricanes had a set play off a faceoff win, and Teuvo Teravainen landed a cross-ice feed right on Sebastian Aho’s stick for a quick shot that beat Halak at 1:50.
Teravainen then made it 2-0. On a harmless-looking rush and shot, his wrister caromed off Adam Pelech’s skate and fooled Halak at 3:40.
“We just got outplayed in the first,” said Halak, who made 13 saves in the period as the Hurricanes threw shots from all corners of the zone. “Obviously, it’s not the start I hoped for.”
Nick Leddy cut the Isles’ deficit to 2-1 at 10:44 of the first with a solo effort up the ice, but Ryan Pulock lost his man and his feet on a three-on-three rush by the Hurricanes, leaving Elias Lindholm alone in the slot to beat Halak at 17:13.
The Islanders dominated the second period, but the Hurricanes twisted the dagger by scoring their second power-play goal at 17:40 for a 4-1 lead. It was Teravainen again, ripping a puck that bounced hard off the end boards under the crossbar.
The Islanders had 30 shot attempts to the Hurricanes’ 11 in the second but left the ice trailing by three.
“We just never got the goal when we needed it and then followed it up,” said coach Doug Weight, who had little negative to say about his team’s performance. “I felt we were definitely in charge of the game from the second-period puck-drop on. We had some really good opportunities to make it a really good game but we just didn’t get it done.”
The Islanders failed on their first six power plays before John Tavares tipped home Leddy’s pass on the seventh advantage with 6:47 to play in the third period to make it 4-2.
The Islanders’ hard-fought 5-3 win over the NHL-best Lightning on Saturday likely took the sting out of Sunday’s loss. Much like some earlier road defeats in Anaheim and Washington — both with Halak in goal — the Islanders felt as if they were not so far off Sunday despite playing from behind nearly the entire game.
“These games are tough, the back-to-backs on the road,” Tavares said. “We lost the special-teams battle and Ward made some really good saves. We just need to regroup and get back to work next week.”