The Carolina Hurricanes found themselves in a position they hadn’t been in yet this postseason. Three unanswered goals by the New York Islanders erased a 2-0 Canes lead and for the first time, Carolina was trailing.
However, that position lasted all of three minutes and one second as the Canes stormed back as they’ve proven capable of all season to tie it, and eventually it was Jesper Fast as the overtime hero to steal the game.
“We’ve been a team all year that will battle hard until the last buzzer goes,” said defenseman Jaccob Slavin. “We’re going to play hard until that last buzzer.”
Early on, it was another case of “Quick-Start” for Carolina as they once again struck first a little over five minutes into the first.
After a long, cycling shift by the fourth line with some timely and deep pinches by Slavin and Brent Burns, Paul Stastny planted himself at the top of the blue paint and redirected a Slavin shot in past Ilya Sorokin, for the Hurricanes’ first even-strength goal of the series.
“It’s the way we have to play,” Stastny said. “Where we just grind them and force them to ice it and then they are stuck out there and tired and then we get a fresh line change in and catch them and in turn we take advantage of them.”
The Hurricanes didn’t exactly look comfortable for many parts of the game and even when going up by a goal and being the beneficiary of multiple straight power plays due to the Islanders’ discipline issues, the problems still permeated.
Especially on the power play. The Hurricanes had three in a row and they all looked bad. Until all of sudden a power play goal was scored. And when I say scored, I mean the puck wound up in the back of New York’s net while they were down a man.
After a stifling penalty kill by the Islanders, Stefan Noesen tried to just throw the puck in deep to establish a forecheck, but New York’s Sebastian Aho swatted the puck down, right towards his own net, where Sorokin was caught completely off guard as the puck bounced past him and in.
But with the way this series is going, and the way Sorokin is playing, the Hurricanes will gladly take the help.
On the opposite side of the ice though, Antti Raanta’s game started to unravel.
First Kyle Palmieri slipped a harmless looking backhander past him and then with 20 seconds left in the second, Mathew Barzal scored from deep after the Islanders picked off a Brady Skjei pass.
Then not long after the start of the third period, Brock Nelson beat Raanta with a clean wrister from the circle.
“It was a tough game obviously. 2-0 lead and then they made the comeback,” Raanta said. “As a goalie you can’t let those goals in, especially now. After the game, you kind of look at those and think what are you going to do better.
“I felt like today was a little bit tougher than the first game. I don’t know why, but I just couldn’t really see a lot of shots. Everything was kind of in front of there, but it was bouncing and I felt like I was off balance all the time and I was scrambling all the time. But that’s playoff hockey. You just have to battle through those and sometimes it’s not a goalie friendly game, or whatever that was, but you just have to battle through it and make the key saves when you can and help the team.”
But as the team has done all season, they went right back to work and put on the pressure and eventually Slavin proved why he was the 2020 Accuracy Shooting Competition Champion by banking the puck in off Sorokin’s head to tie the game late in the third.
“Honestly, I was looking for the pass the whole time,” Slavin said. “And at the last second, I just saw his head and put it in the vicinity and I ended up getting a lucky bounce.”
The tense battle continued through the end of regulation and into overtime, but it was the Hurricanes’ best and most consistent line that ended it.
Jordan Staal, who has been the team’s guiding light, laced a perfect pass cross-ice to Fast who buried it for perhaps his best goal as a Hurricane.
“The puck got stuck a little bit in the neutral zone and then Burns made a great play to [Staal] and then I just tried to go back post,” Fast said. “Great pass by [Staal]. I don’t really know where it went in, but a great feeling.”
“There’ve been games where I felt like I didn’t play as good as I can, but these guys just bail me out and it was kind of like that today,“ Raanta said. “We just never give up. It doesn’t matter what the score is. If there’s still a little bit of time, we’ll keep doing our best and play our style. When we do that, good things usually happen. Just a resilient group.”
Despite the win, a big focus of the game will be how it was rife with missed calls, including a missed high-stick from Jordan Martinook to Scott Mayfield moments before the game winning goal, however Brind’Amour felt that the most egregious missed call was the one that came from a play that ended one of his players’ season.
Brind’Amour confirmed post-game that forward Teuvo Teravainen would miss the remainder of the first round due to a broken hand suffered Wednesday night in Game 2 of the first round series with the New York Islanders.
“He’s out. Got slashed. 4:25 marker. Boom. Broke his hand. He has the puck, takes a shot, and the guy absolutely tomahawk chops him. Absolutely.”
“I know we had all the power plays so you’re not going to make it a 5-on-3, but go take a look at the video. And he’s out for the series. So there you go. They’re going to complain about all the power plays, but it’s a tomahawk chop. He’s going to have surgery tomorrow. There you go. So I’m a little pissed to be honest with you.”
So the Hurricanes will be down yet another top winger on a season that seems to have it out for the team, and things are just going to get tougher as a desperate Islanders team continues to resort to what it does best, lay hits.
The Canes were perhaps fortunate that they only lost one player and not two after Staal was drilled from behind by Matt Martin in the waning seconds of the first period.
It’s what they can probably expect to keep happening until this series is over.
But with a 2-0 lead the Hurricanes are sitting pretty as they head to New York for Game 3 Friday night at UBS Arena.