Had Game 4 continued on the trajectory it was on for the first 2 minutes and 41 seconds, perhaps the Islanders wouldn’t be on the brink of elimination.
But they had no one else to blame — not even referees Wes McCauley and Frederik L’Ecuyer as coach Lane Lambert questioned a goalie interference call on Zach Parise and an embellishment penalty on Mathew Barzal — for their 5-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday afternoon at UBS Arena.
They were dominated on special teams, a problem made worse because they couldn’t maintain on-ice discipline, specifically a roughing penalty on Matt Martin and an interference call against Brock Nelson.
“I thought we took a couple of undisciplined penalties, no question,” Lambert said. “It totally slowed our momentum. The power-play goal they scored, the second one, was a real stinger.”
Game 5 will be played Tuesday night in Raleigh, North Carolina, with the Hurricanes holding a 3-1 series edge.
“We’ll take a look and improve upon some things from today and reset,” Kyle Palmieri said. “Backs against the wall going on the road. That’s really it. We’ve just got to find a way to get our game to another level and find a way to win a hockey game.”
“At this point, nothing matters except getting this series back here,” Parise said of a potential Game 6 at UBS Arena on Friday night.
The Hurricanes went 2-for-5 on the power play; the Islanders were 0-for-3 with just two shots.
“Honestly, we’ve got to start staying out of the box,” said Bo Horvat, whose shorthanded breakaway goal to cap the scoring at 17:57 of the third period marked his first point of the series. “I thought we had a really good first period and then took some penalties. When you start off the second period in the box again, it just kills momentum.”
The Islanders had taken the game’s first five shots and had put Antti Raanta under constant pressure when Parise was called for goalie interference at 2:41 of the first period. That became a five-on-three when defenseman Ryan Pulock was given a two-minute boarding penalty — he avoided a five-minute major after a video review — for slamming Jack Drury into the wall at 3:30.
Drury did not return and Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour, already without top-six forwards Andrei Svechnikov, Teuvo Teravainen and Max Pacioretty, elevated AHL call-up Mackenzie MacEachern to the top line.
Seth Jarvis, with the first of his two goals, made it 1-0 on the two-man advantage at 4:05 of the first period.
Both Parise and Lambert believed he had been pushed into Raanta by Hurricanes defenseman Jalen Chatfield.
“My opinion doesn’t really matter,” Parise said. “I felt like I got pushed into him. Maybe he saw something different.”
The Islanders then were denied their own five-on-three power play when Barzal was called for embellishment after being cross-checked by defenseman Brent Burns at 8:43 of the first period with Jesperi Kotkaniemi already in the box for elbowing Pierre Engvall.
“I thought we started the game well,” Lambert said. “It shifted a little bit with the five-on-three they got, the Parise penalty. Certainly I thought Chatfield pushed him into the goaltender. When we had a power play, the same type of thing happened to Barzal with Burns, but he got an embellishment and I don’t understand that. But I thought penalties hurt us.”
The prime example came as Martin Necas’ backdoor power-play goal at 1:15 of the second period made it 2-0 after Martin burst into a scrum for a needless roughing penalty against MacEachern after the first-period buzzer.
That became 3-0 at 13:30 of the second period as the Hurricanes’ Sebastian Aho finished a two-on-one rush with MacEachern after Islanders defenseman Alexander Romanov flubbed an attempted offensive-zone entry pass.
Jarvis made it a four-goal deficit with a breakaway goal at 1:20 of the third period as he got past Nelson.
The Islanders took 11 shots in the third period, finally breaking through as defenseman Adam Pelech got to a loose puck near the crease to bring them within 4-1 at 3:14.
MacEachern pushed it to 5-1 at 14:01.
Raanta, who made 27 saves, earned his first career playoff road win in eight tries. The Islanders’ Ilya Sorokin stopped 24 shots.