RALEIGH, N.C. — The Islanders seem further away from being able to beat the fast-skating Hurricanes than they did in losing four straight in last season’s playoffs. And they’re still struggling to regain the sound structure that defined their first season under Barry Trotz.
“I don’t think we’ve been where we need to be, exactly,” defenseman Ryan Pulock said. “I think we’ve showed it at times. Consistently, we need to get better there and I think it’s just a mindset. Things aren’t going exactly how you want. You’ve just got to dig deeper. That’s where we’re at right now.”
A disappointing start to the season worsened with Friday night’s 5-2 loss at PNC Arena in which the Hurricanes dominated five-on-five play. To be fair, it was a stronger effort than Tuesday’s soft 5-2 loss to the visiting Oilers, who, like the Hurricanes, remain undefeated.
“We all know why we struggled in the first three games,” captain Anders Lee said. “I think, tonight, we played a better game. Obviously, it wasn’t good enough. We’ve put ourselves in a little bit of a hole here and we’ve got to grind our way out of it and keep climbing.”
The Islanders (1-3-0), who will face the Panthers on Saturday night at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum, went 2-for-5 on the power play and twice rallied to tie it but generated few dangerous chances otherwise.
“We need more five-on-five, just from everybody,” Trotz said. “Every night, it seems like we’ve got one line going and the other three aren’t quite going. We need that four-line mentality.”
The Hurricanes got 17 saves from Petr Mrazek — the Islanders had just two third-period shots — and set a franchise record with their fifth straight win to start the season. The Islanders had just two third-period shots despite trailing by two.
Thomas Greiss, who had won six of his last seven starts against the Hurricanes and now is 8-5-1 lifetime against them, made 35 saves.
“They’re a fast team in transition,” Greiss said. “They had a couple of good looks. I thought we responded well in the second period and the third period and tightened it up.”
The Hurricanes swept the Islanders in the second round of last season’s playoffs by an aggregate 13-5, including twin 5-2 wins in Games 3 and 4 at Carolina.
Slow starts have been an issue through the first four games for the Islanders, who started chasing the Hurricanes and getting knocked off the puck too often in the first period.
The Hurricanes took a 1-0 lead at 3:57 as Dougie Hamilton fed Teuvo Teravainen for an easy goal off the rush. Defenseman Brett Pesce’s short-side shot past Greiss’ right pad made it 2-1 at 14:42 of the first period after Brock Nelson tied the score at 1 on the power play at 8:36. He finished off a tic-tac-toe feed from Jordan Eberle – who had called this a “must-win” for the Islanders – and Bailey.
The Islanders tied the score at 2-2 at 1:53 of the second on Johnny Boychuk’s power-play goal, a blast from the right circle that ended with the defenseman celebrating by removing his right glove and using his fingers to shoot at the net.
But the Islanders went without a five-on-five shot over the last 16:49 of the second period and through the first 4:05 of the third period.
Erik Haula gave the Hurricanes a 3-2 lead at 15:09 of the second period, skating out of the right corner past Derick Brassard to the crease. Hamilton, with a one-timer from the top of the right circle, made it 4-2 with 58.4 seconds left in the period.
Andrei Svechnikov iced it with an empty-netter with 49.8 seconds to go.