The Islanders know they’ve done nothing more than guarantee at least one more trip to Carolina. Sunday afternoon’s Game 4 against the Hurricanes at UBS Arena will go a long way toward determining how tight this first-round series will be.
“It was huge to get the first win,” defenseman Adam Pelech said at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow as neither team practiced on Saturday.
“We never felt out of it. The two games in Carolina were extremely tight, especially Game 2. We had a chance to win both games. I think we still felt confident going into Game 3 and we got a huge win. So we’ve got to keep going and moving forward.”
The Islanders, with an NHL playoff-record four goals in 2 minutes, 18 seconds late in the third period, earned a 5-1 win on Friday night in the first playoff game at UBS Arena as the home team continued to hold serve in the series. The Hurricanes won Game 1, 2-1, then needed overtime to pull out Game 2, 4-3.
Game 5 is Tuesday night in Raleigh, North Carolina.
“The first one was important for us,” Zach Parise said. “I feel like we played well enough to at least get a split down in Carolina, but it didn’t happen. We’d like to think the momentum will carry over [to Game 4], but it’s a new game for both teams.”
The Islanders outscored the Hurricanes 3-0 in Game 3 with the teams skating five-on-five — the Islanders had an empty-net goal, too — and hold a 7-3 advantage in the three games.
The Hurricanes were 3-for-10 on the power play in the first two games, but the Islanders killed off all three of their chances in Game 3.
Theoretically, then, the Islanders should have an advantage if they can stay out of the penalty box.
“We’ve been a good five-on-five team for the most part pretty much the whole year,” Parise said. “We’ve liked the way we’ve played five-on-five. Our breakouts have been good. One of their strengths is extended offensive-zone shifts. We’ve been breaking out well and haven’t been giving them too much from that standpoint.”
The Hurricanes have outshot the Islanders in each game, including 37-31 in Game 3.
“I think we’re getting a lot of chances and not giving them much,” Hurricanes center Jordan Staal said. “It was a tight game last game, 1-1 with five minutes left. I don’t think it was a struggle and we had plenty of chances to get a few. So if we continue to play our style and get as much volume as we can and keep creating chances and playing in their end, I like our chances.”
The other advantage for the Islanders in the series has been their physicality. They outhit the Hurricanes 43-28 in Game 3 after being credited with 49 hits in Game 1 and 54 in Game 2.
The Hurricanes went into the postseason missing top-six wing Andrei Svechnikov because of a knee injury and lost another top-six wing, Teuvo Teravainen, to a broken hand in Game 2.
Part of the Islanders’ strategy is to try to wear down the depleted Hurricanes physically over the course of the series.
“Maybe,” Pelech said when asked whether the Islanders have started to get to the Hurricanes physically. “We have been extremely physical. It’s playoff hockey, so it is going to be physical. That’s always a big part of it.”
Notes & quotes: Hurricanes goalie Antti Raanta, who was in net for the first three games in the series and who stopped 32 of 36 shots in Game 3, started consecutive games only twice during the regular season. That included five straight starts from Dec. 22-Jan. 1, a span that bridged the NHL’s three-day holiday break. Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour could turn to Frederik Andersen for Game 4 if he’s available. He did not dress the last two games because of illness.