With a chance to put the New York Islanders to rest and book a trip to the second round of the playoffs Tuesday night, the Carolina Hurricanes slipped up and fell 3-2 on home ice to send the series back north to Long Island.
The Canes fell down 2-0, cut into the deficit to make it 2-1 and allowed a disheartening goal late in the second period that served as the game winner for the Islanders.
The Hurricanes still hold a 3-2 lead in the series, though things feel a little less sure as the Canes face either winning on the road or a winner-take-all game seven.
About last night:
Costly errors bite hard
Apart from the final score, it’d be hard to make an argument that the Hurricanes weren’t the better team Tuesday night in Raleigh.
Carolina outshot the Islanders 36-22, had 65 CF% as a team and doubled up New York on scoring chances. But at the end of the evening, it was the Islanders that bumped their 1 up to 2 in the wins column for this series and survived what they hope is the first of three elimination games they must stave off.
And for the Canes, the part that has to sting the most is that it was mostly Carolina errors that led to the final score line. Of New York’s three goals, two of them really came directly off some mental miscues from the Canes.
The Islanders scored their first goal on what felt like an overwhelmingly lack of either urgency or awareness from Carolina, as the Canes had the numbers to clear the puck out of their zone but just didn’t. A turnover led to a chance right out front from Pierre Engvall, who buried it through Antti Raanta.
And while New York’s second goal was a result of a bad bounce more than anything else — with Sebastian Aho’s face setting things up for New York — the game winner from Mathew Barzal was gifted on a silver platter to the Islanders by Martin Necas. The Canes’ winger got a little lost with the puck, tried to do a bit too much and a quick takeaway and goal from Barzal put the final nail in Carolina’s coffin.
Playing at home, in a game where you really probably played better, the recipe to lose is making avoidable, costly mistakes. That’s something Carolina didn’t do Tuesday night, and now they’ve got another road trip to New York to make.
Depth line grinding
A good note in Carolina’s bad loss Tuesday was the line of Derek Stepan, Paul Stastny and Jesse Puljujarvi.
Stastny got on the board for Carolina’s first goal — his second of the series — by getting to the dirty area in front of net alongside Stepan and tipping in a hard shot in from Jalen Chatfield. It was production from the depth again, something that has helped the Canes out so far.
As a line, that trio accounted for an 83.33 CF% — the best on the Canes — and had nearly twice as many scoring chances (nine) as any other line (next closest was five) despite playing fewer minutes than the top two groupings. And along with the nine scoring chances for, the line didn’t allow a single scoring chance against.
They also had four high-danger chances, created two rebound chances as well as two rush chances. All of those were the most of any trio the Canes put on the ice Tuesday night.
Depth scoring and contribution is important when you get into the absolute grind of the playoffs, and Carolina’s most makeshift line played its part Tuesday night.