Chance after chance after chance came and went, and still the Islanders were desperately trying to keep their season from reaching the brink.
The goals finally came late in the third period, four in an NHL playoff-record 2 minutes, 18 seconds. Better late than never.
And so the first-ever playoff game at sold-out UBS Arena turned into a rocking party as the Islanders beat the Hurricanes, 5-1, in Game 3 on Friday night to pull within two games to one in this first-round series.
“There was a lot of emotion,” said Kyle Palmieri, who gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead at 16:09 of the third period, deflecting defenseman Sebastian Aho’s shot from the right point for a power-play goal to start the barrage. “All night, our fans were into it. We were into it. It was a tight game. It feels good to come out on top.”
Game 4 is Sunday afternoon at UBS Arena.
“Wow,” Anders Lee said when told the Islanders had set an NHL playoff record. “It started with Palms, he had a heck of a night tonight. One of those games where we just had to stick with it. I thought our guys did a phenomenal job of that. We played our game the whole way through. We were solid all night.”
The Islanders, who got 30 saves from Ilya Sorokin, outhit the Hurricanes 43-28 after being credited with 49 hits in a 2-1 loss in Game 1 and 54 in a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 2.
“You want to chip away and be hard on people,” Matt Martin said. “It doesn’t necessarily pan out every game. But if we continue to do that over the course of a possible seven, it’s going to wear on people. That’s a big identity of our team.”
Power-play success has not been the Islanders’ forte this season, and they did not receive a power-play chance in Game 2. They had gone 0-for-4 with only four shots and allowed a shorthanded goal in Game 3 before Palmieri put them ahead.
The Islanders went 3-for-3 on the penalty kill, essentially killing off all three to start the second period — Palmieri was called for hooking Jesper Fast at 19:26 of the first period — and used that momentum to take a 1-0 lead at 12:49, the first time they’ve scored the opening goal in the series.
Defenseman Ryan Pulock’s backhanded feed got to Casey Cizikas low in the right circle and he chipped it past Antti Raanta (32 saves).
“It probably cost us the game,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said of his team’s power play. “In the second, we had a couple and we needed to do more there to at least give us some life. You can’t just rely on killing penalties. We need more on the power play, clearly.”
The Hurricanes had gone 2-for-4 on the power play in Game 1 and 1-for-6 in Game 2.
“Especially after the first game, giving up those two goals on the power play, that doesn’t sit well with us as killers,” said Cizikas, who logged 3:20 of his 12:47 on the penalty kill. “We want to be better than that. We’ve talked a lot. We’ve worked on it a lot going into these last two games. It’s definitely a big momentum shift.”
Martin connected from the left for a much-needed two-goal margin 44 seconds after Palmieri’s goal. Defenseman Scott Mayfield added an empty-netter at 18:11 with a 175-foot shot as he fell to the ice, and Lee capped the scoring 16 seconds later.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi was called for holding Bo Horvat at 15:17 of the second period, but the Hurricanes tied it at 1-1 with a shorthanded goal. Penalty-killer Jordan Staal stripped Mathew Barzal of the puck to start a two-on-one rush, and Sorokin seemed to make the initial save on Fast before the puck trickled in at 16:56.
The Islanders tweaked their power play to a 2-1-2 alignment from the more standard 1-3-1 and got two shots on their first try as Zach Parise tried to stuff in a backhander. But the Islanders’ best chance in the first period came as Raanta allowed a long rebound off Barzal’s shot from the right. Lee had a good look at a lot of net from the left but shot it considerably wide to the far post at 19:00.
“You just have to keep an even keel no matter what happens in each individual game,” coach Lane Lambert said before the game. “But certain games can change the complexion of a series, there’s no question.”
This one can.