The Islanders’ long playoff layoff and the Hurricanes’ short day of rest from the first round essentially negated each other in Game 1 of their second-round series.
Neither team was crisp and the soft ice at Barclays Center, where the Islanders had not played since Feb. 16, certainly played a role. But the Hurricanes’ 1-0 overtime win before an announced sellout crowd of 15,795 on Friday night portended a tight series between two teams that play a similar hard-working style.
“They’re a tight team,” Islanders right wing Jordan Eberle said. “We play tight, they play tight. There’s not a lot of room out there. We had our chances. We created. We had some good looks.”
Islanders goalie Robin Lehner and Hurricanes counterpart Petr Mrazek, each of whom made 31 saves, were easily the best players for their teams. The best penalty-killers, too, as each team went 0-for-4 on the power play.
Jordan Staal finally won it for the Hurricanes with a sharp-angle shot that banked in off Lehner’s skate as he stretched out his left pad at 4:04 of overtime.
Lehner initially stopped a two-on-one rush, but the Hurricanes were able to keep the puck deep. The sequence started with an Islanders turnover in the offensive zone on an ill-advised back pass by Cal Clutterbuck that coach Barry Trotz called “too cute.”
Game 2 is set for Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn before the series shifts to Carolina for Game 3 on Wednesday night and Game 4 on Friday night.
“It’s not the result I wanted,” Lehner said. “It’s small details and small margins here in the playoffs. I thought we played a good game. They did, too. It’s going to be a tight series. We’ve just got to bounce back on Sunday. It’s not a big deal.”
“They’re a very good hockey team that plays fast,” Trotz added. “I think we’re capable of playing fast. They’re a good-sized hockey team. So yeah, it’s Game 1. They didn’t win the series. We lost a game.”
The Islanders completed their four-game sweep of the Penguins with a 3-1 win in Pittsburgh on April 16. They played their home games at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum in the first round.
The Hurricanes ousted the defending Stanley Cup champion Capitals by rallying for a 4-3 double-overtime win in Game 7 at Washington on Wednesday night.
“I think we’re pretty stable,” left wing Matt Martin said. “That’s the right word. We played a pretty solid game overall for having as much time off as we did. When we start trying to be cute and make that extra play, we just fed into their offense.”
The Islanders did show a layer of rust as the Hurricanes carried the play early, taking the game’s first four shots.
But the Islanders sharpened their game relatively quickly after Mathew Barzal took the team’s first shot at 5:48. Mrazek had to be sharp to stop Valtteri Filppula from below the circles at 6:20, and he sprawled to make a glove save on Josh Bailey’s breakaway backhander at 13:58.
But Lehner was sharp, too, most notably stopping Brock McGinn’s backhander after defenseman Devon Toews turned the puck over deep in the Islanders’ zone.
Lehner’s best second-period save came as he stretched out his left pad to deny Gregg McKegg’s breakaway off another turnover by Toews.
Mrazek used his blocker to turn aside Eberle’s shot from the left on a two-on-none with Bailey at 1:51 of the second period and denied Anders Lee at the crease at 17:03.
Four seconds later, the Islanders had a goal waved off as Lee was called for goalie interference just as Barzal tucked the puck inside the left post. Lee certainly made contact with Mrazek, though it appeared he was pushed by Lucas Wallmark.
“I think it’s a penalty,” Lee said. “There’s no replays. I’m looking back, looking at the play. I don’t know if I got pushed with the centerman there. I could have, but I haven’t seen it.”
Trotz said he opted not to challenge the interference because the call on the ice was no goal.
Said Trotz, “We looked at it as a staff and decided we wouldn’t go there.”