Sometimes, all it takes is one. The Carolina Hurricanes took Game 1 of their second round series 1-0 over the New York Islanders after Jordan Staal’s overtime goal just minutes into the extra frame. Petr Mrazek was perfect, stopping all 31 shots he faced.
If the first period was any indication of how this series will shape up, buckle in. Both teams came out skating hard and each had a physical game with the advantage to the well-rested Islanders. In the first five minutes, the Hurricanes controlled the play, pestering Robin Lehner with shots and sustaining offensive pressure in the Islanders zone. The Hurricanes gave up many odd-man rushes in the middle frame but it was strong pinches by the Hurricanes defense corps in the neutral zone that prevented any damage. After a bad pinch in the later frame of the period, Josh Bailey broke in on Mrazek but Mrazek stretched out and made a strong glove save to keep the game scoreless.
The Hurricanes put a grade-A chance on Lehner with a shot from Game 7 hero Brock McGinn after an Islanders defenseman made a turnover. Lehner reached out and made the save on the Hurricanes best chance of the period. The Islanders held the shot advantage in the period and managed six shots from the slot.
In the second, Mrazek came out on fire after a strong offensive push by the Islanders. He made a flurry of saves in the first few minutes of the period including one that trickled on top of his pad and into the goal crease. The Islanders held an extended offensive push in the Hurricanes zone but Mrazek provided a timely stoppage of play to give the Hurricanes a chance to regain their composure.
The Islanders’ Mathew Barzal put the puck in the net late in the second, seemingly breaking the ice, but the goal was waved off and Isles captain Anders Lee was sent to the penalty box for goalie interference. It was a bit of a dubious call, as Lee was pushed into Mrazek by Lucas Wallmark, but the Canes were more than happy to take the break.
Later in the period, Greg McKegg broke in for a chance to put the Hurricanes up and get the scoring started in the series but Lehner stopped the shot with the tip of his pad.
Early in the third, the whistles came out as Cal Clutterbuck high-sticked Trevor van Riemsdyk and drew blood from the side of his face so Clutterbuck received a double minor that was initially uncalled. Around the two minute mark of the double-minor, the penalty was cancelled out when Lucas Wallmark was whistled for high sticking, which ended the Hurricanes offensive pressure.
With around ten minutes to go in the third, Justin Williams came up with the puck after a scramble in front of Lehner but fired a shot after deking past him but a diving Nick Leddy saved the day for the Islanders. Two minutes later, the Islanders were whistled for interference. During the ensuing power play, Staal’s shot squeaked through Lehner’s pads but off to the right of the goal. Ryan Pulock fired a shot of his own in return on the other end and the Barclays Center crowd thought they had a goal, but the puck got lodged on the outside of the net. However, neither team scored and the game remained scoreless.
It all came down to overtime. After a frantic scramble in front of the net minutes into the period, Nino Niederreiter banked a pass off the boards behind Lehner to the other side of the net and Staal quickly fired a shot on net. The puck bounced off Lehner’s skate and in for Staal’s 4th of the postseason.
Jordan Martinook, despite not being able to play thanks to the lingering lower-body injury that ruled him out of overtime in Game 7 against the Capitals, suffered an upper-body injury anyway.
Puck drop for Game 2 is Sunday at 3 p.m. in Brooklyn. Canes Country’s Brian LeBlanc and Justin Lape will have coverage from Barclays Center. Follow along at @CanesCountry on Twitter and @canescountrypix on Instagram.