The Islanders have lost for the first time in these playoffs. It was going to happen.
“You’re not going to go 16-0,” right wing Jordan Eberle said of the amount of wins it takes to lift the Stanley Cup. “It’s our first little bump, and with the character of our group, we need to respond, and I know we will.”
The Islanders will face the Hurricanes in Game 2 of their second-round series on Sunday afternoon at Barclays Center after a 1-0 overtime loss in Friday night’s Game 1 in Brooklyn. The Islanders had not played since completing a four-game sweep of the Penguins on April 16. The Hurricanes were coming off Wednesday night’s 4-3 double- overtime win over the defending Cup champion Capitals in Game 7 in Washington.
Still, the Islanders have no desire to go to Carolina for Game 3 on Wednesday night trailing 2-0 in the series. Eberle went so far as to call Sunday a “do-or-die” game for the Islanders.
Coach Barry Trotz strongly disagreed. Last season, his Capitals lost the first two games of their first-round series to the Blue Jackets — both in overtime at home — before winning four straight. The Capitals won the first two games of their series against the Hurricanes before bowing out in Game 7.
“If that were the case, it would be the best out of two,” Trotz said. “That’s not the case. It’s a race to four.
“I didn’t think we were going to go 16-0,” he added. “That’s part of the playoffs. There’s no team that runs that anymore. The teams are so close.”
Neither team was at its best on Friday night as the Islanders tried to regain that competitive edge lost during their long playoff layoff and the Hurricanes played on short rest.
“Physically, we’re fine,” Trotz said. “We’ve got to get back to that mental state that [the Hurricanes] are in, and it takes some time. You get to that state where you’re fully invested. It’s not necessarily physical rust. Sometimes it’s mental rust. You double-clutch on a thing. You take a look, that extra second, that you didn’t take earlier. Those go away, and I’m confident we’ll be better in the series.”
Eberle estimated the Islanders lost 65 percent of the 50-50 battles for pucks in Game 1, adding they usually win about 65 percent of those.
Center Mathew Barzal said the Islanders need to do a better job of getting traffic in front of Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek. He and the Islanders’ Robin Lehner each made 31 saves.
“He’s a pretty athletic goalie, but you make the right shot, it’s going to go in,” said Barzal, who had a second-period goal waved off because Anders Lee was called for goalie interference. “He closes quickly on cross-ice passes. Maybe we’ve got to get a little more traffic, more pucks to the net and around the net. He’s got a lot of confidence now. We’ve scored in the past, so we’ve just got to find that first one and roll from there.”
“For sure, it’s a test, but I think we have all the confidence in the world this group will respond the right way,” center Brock Nelson added. “We had good things in the first game. We didn’t get the result and there are areas we can be better at and elevate to get ourselves in a better position to win a game.”
The Islanders did maintain their defensive consistency from their first-round sweep and have allowed only one goal in each of their last four games.
There were stretches in the Penguins series in which the game became a bit of a track meet, with the teams trading chances and plenty of open ice.
That’s not the expectation for this series.
“It’s going to be a drawn-out series,” defenseman Thomas Hickey said. “You go through the first four games and win them all and life’s good. But if you want the ultimate prize, you’re going to lose a few along the way. That’s a motivation for us to even this thing up right away.”