You play that game ten times, and after nine of them, you’re heading to the second round of the playoffs.
“The bounces didn’t go our way tonight, plain and simple,” said coach Rod Brind’Amour. “I liked the way we played. Played hard. Just a couple of mistakes that cost us. There wasn’t a ton of those, but it was just the bounces didn’t go our way.”
Carolina was dominant at even strength and on special teams, but it was once again the mental mistakes, those small breaths, that were costly.
“I don’t think it was a terrible game, but we gave them some freebies for sure,” said captain Jordan Staal. “They didn’t really have to work too hard for two of those goals. It’s hard to score goals, especially in the playoffs.”
The goals against were almost all avoidable too.
On the first, the Hurricanes had numbers and time in their own end to retrieve a puck, but they took too long, allowing New York to force a rushed clear, which was picked off and sent right back in where Pierre Engvall was waiting all alone in front of Raanta.
Then a shot was blocked and deflected right into Sebastian Aho’s face, busting his lip, and Brock Nelson deftly knocked the midair puck into the net.
Then Martin Necas tried to force a puck across the blueline at 4-on-4, lost it and sent New York the other way on a 2-on-1, where Mathew Barzal buried the feed.
“The puck bounced to me and I tried to go through the middle and Barzal took it and scored,” Necas said. “I made a turnover there and it was a big goal for them. I’ve gotta learn from that. There’s nothing else to do other than to come out for the next game and be ready.”
It’s been tough sledding for Necas this series, as the Hurricanes’ top regular season point scorer, has yet to register a 5-on-5 point. He’s also been getting buried chance-wise, with a 41.96 CF% and has been on the ice for four 5v5 goals against.
“He’s all over the ice trying to do a little too much,” Brind’Amour said. “It’s not a lack of effort or anything because he knows. We’ve got three offensive guys out of the lineup and he knows he’s one of the guys that feels the need to get on the scoresheet, but there’s a way to do it. A right way to do it. He’s just got to dial it down a little.”
Past those moments, the Islanders didn’t really generate much offensively. Carolina did an excellent job boxing them out, keeping the puck off their sticks and driving play the other way.
But a few poor plays were the difference between advancing and having to continue the series.
“It’s not our style,” Staal said. “I think we can be better and we can keep it tighter and give them nothing. I think that’s always been our first and foremost, giving them nothing, and we didn’t do that tonight.”
It was also clear that luck just wasn’t on Carolina’s side in Game 5 either.
The Canes had a chance to tie it up at one a piece late in the first period, and for a moment, they did that as Stefan Noesen buried an Aho feed on the backdoor. But then the Islanders successfully challenged the play for offsides that had occurred 30 seconds prior to the goal, so it was back to square one for Carolina.
“It’s just how the night was going,” Brind’Amour said. “You could almost sense it. It was offsides, but it really didn’t impact anything. It’s how it goes. But that was tough because it was a nice play too. A good set, we did it right. Tonight we didn’t get rewarded for the effort, I think.”
And the bad luck didn’t just stop there, as the Hurricanes struck the post twice on the power play, Seth Jarvis was robbed by Ilya Sorokin off a behind the net feed, Necas’ stick exploded on a clear one-timer opportunity and countless other little bounces here and there.
The Canes did manage to keep things close on a few good plays. Paul Stastny managed to get his team on the board, redirecting a Jalen Chatfield blast through Sorokin’s five-hole.
The fourth line has been a real big difference maker in the series. While the Islanders like to tout the physicality of their “Identity Line,” it’s been getting buried every night and Carolina’s fourth line has been sustaining massive pressure and getting timely goals, icings and penalties.
“That line was good,” Brind’Amour said. “Real productive shifts one after another. Got a big goal.”
Aho also kept his hot streak going, cutting the deficit to one halfway through the third period by burying a feed from Jarvis from below the goal line, but the Hurricanes just couldn’t find another bounce past Sorokin.
“We did a good job battling back,” Staal said. “I thought we played a great game and had enough chances to win the game. We’ve gotta clean it up and play a little more solid.”
The Hurricanes will now head back to Long Island still having a chance to finish off the series.
“It’s supposed to be hard at this time of year,” Aho said. “We were ready for a long series, so it’s no big deal. We’ve just gotta go back to Long Island and try to do what we did for another night there.”