RALEIGH, N.C. — After the Islanders were swept out of the second round of the playoffs by the Carolina Hurricanes, coach Barry Trotz said there was some discussion before Friday night’s Game 4 about whether to stick with goaltender Robin Lehner, who had started the first seven games of the postseason, or turn to Thomas Greiss, who had beaten the Hurricanes three times in four regular-season meetings.
“It was a real tough decision, because in this series, goaltending really wasn’t the problem,’’ Trotz said after the Islanders’ 5-2 loss. “It was more of the goal-scoring . . . We just felt, I’m not going to put the blame on the goaltending because it wasn’t the problem in this series at all.’’
Trotz started Lehner but finished with Greiss, who entered early in the second period after Lehner allowed two goals in 1:06 and the Islanders fell behind 3-1.
Trotz said he didn’t pull Lehner because he thought he played poorly.
“We just got punched in the nose, and I was looking for a spark,’’ Trotz said. “I knew that goals had been pretty hard to come by in this series, so we couldn’t let it get past three goals against], and I just felt that hopefully I could quiet it down, maybe guys would focus in for Greisser.’’
Lehner, who allowed three goals on 11 shots, was gracious afterward. He said the Islanders were beaten by a better team and that he was not upset about getting pulled.
“No, it’s the coach’s decision,’’ Lehner said. “And he’s the best coach in the league.’’
Lehner, who entered Game 4 with a 1.69 goals-against average and .946 save percentage in the playoffs, was pulled at 3:17 of the second period after a goal by Greg McKegg. Lehner had made the save on a shot by Brett Pesce but didn’t know where the puck was. When it fell from his chest to the ice, right in front of him, McKegg got to the rebound before Lehner and jammed it in for his first goal of the playoffs.
Greiss came in at that point and made eight saves on 10 shots in his only postseason action.
Lehner spoke after the game of how proud he is of what the Islanders accomplished this season, which included winning the Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals in the league — one season after they allowed the most goals in the league since 2007.
Personally, he had a massive season after signing a one-year, $1.5 million contract last summer. He went public at the start of training camp with his story of his mental illness and alcohol and drug abuse problems, then became a Vezina Trophy finalist for best goaltender in the NHL and a finalist for the Masterton Trophy for perseverance and dedication to hockey.
But now he is a free agent. Asked if he hopes to return, he said, “It’s been an incredible year. It’s a little bit too much emotions right now . . . We’ll see what God has in store for me.
“For me personally, this is Step 1,’’ he added. “There’s a lot of things left for me to address and fix in my life, and I truly believe in my core that I’m going to be a better goalie next year.’’