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Despite layoff, Robin Lehner sharp in Islanders' loss

After making several spectacular saves, he finally is beaten in OT.

Robin Lehner of the Islanders looks on after

Robin Lehner of the Islanders looks on after the Hurricanes scored in overtime during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at Barclays Center on Friday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Before the Islanders got the second round of the playoffs started against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night, coach Barry Trotz expressed confidence that Robin Lehner would carry over his strong play from the first round despite a 10-day layoff.

“I don’t see why not,’’ Trotz said at an optional morning skate Friday at Barclays Center. “I witnessed it [Thursday] night. ‘Bob’ [Sergei Bobrovsky] for Columbus was fantastic [in Game 1 against Boston]. I don’t see why he can’t. I think our goaltending department has done a really great job of preparing Robin and Greisser [Thomas Greiss] to jump in there. When they’ve come off any time working with the goaltending department, they seem to have been really sharp, so I’m hoping for the same.’’

Trotz got the same from Lehner, though the Islanders lost for the first time in these playoffs, 1-0, in overtime. Lehner made 31 saves, matching the number Carolina goalie Petr Mrazek made. Lehner was brilliant right up until the 4:04 mark of overtime, when Jordan Staal sneaked a shot off the goalie after collecting Nino Niederreiter’s pass.

“I thought I played well, but I’ve got to look at the goal again,’’ said Lehner, whose demeanor didn’t seem any different than after each of the four victories in the opening-round series against the Penguins.

Lehner said he and the Islanders are OK despite trailing in the playoffs for the first time this spring. They played well, he said, but just didn’t win.

“Mrazek played well,’’ Lehner said. “He made some big saves in the beginning of the game, and it felt like I made some big saves in the middle of the game and some in the third, but it was a hard game, back and forth. I thought it was a good defensive game for both teams, but obviously, it was a 1-0 loss in OT; it could have gone anyone’s way there. We’ve just got to bounce back and get the next one.’’

Lehner made several amazing saves, including one on Brock McGinn with 28.6 seconds left in the first period. He probably was busiest in the second period. He smothered a breakaway shot by Teuvo Teravainen 4:58 into the period and managed to get his left skate wedged against the post just in time to stuff Niederreiter’s jam-in attempt at 8:33.

But his best save was on Greg McKegg, who got a clean breakaway from the blue line midway through the period. McKegg, skating diagonally, went forehand-backhand, and Lehner stretched out his left pad and blocked McKegg’s attempt with 10:04 left in the period. That earned him a few “Leh-ner! Leh-ner!’’ chants.

But Mrazek made an equal number of great saves. He, too, stopped a breakaway on Josh Bailey in the first period. Mrazek was beaten once, at 17:07 of the second, when Mathew Barzal put the puck in the net. But the Islanders’ Anders Lee was given a goaltender-interference penalty on the play for knocking Mrazek over, and that wiped the goal off the board.

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