Through 55 minutes, the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders were tied 1-1 in a close and even played game as had been throughout the entire series.
But then Brady Skjei was whistled for a high sticking penalty.
No worries though, as the Hurricanes’ penalty kill had been perfect throughout all three games and had even tied up this game with a shorthanded tally.
But in the final second of power play time, Kyle Palmieri got his stick on a shot from the blueline and redirected it up top shelf.
No worries though, New York was bound to get one and the Hurricanes have come back from deficits before time and time again. They can get one goal.
But then the game was truly lost shortly after.
The Hurricanes got caught pressing in the offensive zone and the Islanders went the other way on an odd-man break. Every Carolina player collapsed on Brock Nelson, the puck carrier, leaving Matt Martin wide-open in the circle and he beat Raanta.
44 seconds, two goals, 2-1 series.
The rest of the goals after that were just against a team that had essentially packed it in.
Empty netter by Scott Mayfield and a deflected shot by Anders Lee.
The frustrating part isn’t the five goals against, but rather goals 2 and 3. Avoidable mistakes that can’t happen in an NHL playoff game.
So while the final score reflects a much worse outcome, it was once again those short breaths that cost Carolina yet another, closely played road playoff game.
Now the recipients of eight straight road playoff losses, the question is if it is more mental than anything? Sure they are missing three top line wingers and a few guys are probably banged up, but to have those mental collapses every road game for eight straight is ridiculous.
You can’t even say that the matchup game has been that crucial because it isn’t even New York’s top line that is hot, but rather lines two and four.
Just mental mistakes. Again.
But Carolina probably shouldn’t even have been in the position to blow games to those mental mistakes. They had plenty of opportunities to gain a lead in this game, but managed to get nothing.
The top two lines have not been good enough for the Hurricanes at even strength, not only are they all dry offensively, but they’ve been the main culprits for goals against.
The Canes thrived throughout the regular season by being the possession dominant team in almost every matchup and winning the five-on-five game, but so far the Isles have kept pace and even outplayed the Hurricanes for stretches at even-strength.
And to top it all off, the power plays are once again back to being non-factors. They scored on the first two opportunities in Game 1 and have since squandered every one since. That just isn’t good enough either.
Carolina still has good offensive players on their roster and if they want to put a stranglehold on the Islanders rather than allow them to even up the series, those are the players who need to step up.