Goals were hard to come by. Game One of the second round between the Islanders and Hurricanes was tightly contested at Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn.
One goal was enough for the Hurricanes to edge the host Islanders 1-0 in overtime to steal home ice. Jordan Staal scored at 4:04 of sudden death to send the capacity crowd home silently. The veteran center was able to find enough room to send a Nino Niederreiter wide carom past an outstretched Robin Lehner to give Carolina a hard fought Game One victory.
The strange thing is Lehner nearly had it. But Staal’s rebound banked in off the Isles starter’s leg. He scored from a bad angle due to Niederreiter’s wide shot that took a favorable Hurricane carom for the game’s lone goal.
It could’ve been a different result for the Islanders. Hosting a second consecutive playoff series after sweeping the Pens in the first round, they had their chances against Carolina netminder Petr Mrazek. He got the better of Lehner in a old fashioned goaltender duel by stopping all 31 Islander shots for the shutout. Oddly enough, Lehner also had 31 saves with only the Staal shot on Carolina’s 32nd shot beating him.
The Isles’ best scoring chance came when Mathew Barzal thought he had a goal that would’ve put them ahead late in the second period. However, the refs waved it off immediately for goalie interference on captain Anders Lee. Replays showed that he was guided into Mrazek from behind with nowhere to go. Even though Mrazek was on the edge of his crease, Lee tried to avoid him. It wasn’t a penalty. But it was incidental contact which would’ve wiped out the goal anyway.
Brock Nelson got the best opportunities on the power play. Jordan Eberle twice had him set up for perfect one-timers. The Isles second line center misfired twice including a flub. He was very effective throughout the game.
In the third period, Islander fans thought they had a goal, but defenseman Ryan Pulock had his one-timer just miss. The goal horn went off. But the refs correctly ruled that the puck didn’t go in. Instead, Pulock’s shot landed on the outside of the net, making it look like it was in. Think John LeClair. Cue the angry Buffalo fans.
Both netminders were sharp. Mrazek made some acrobatic stops while also denying Josh Bailey on a breakaway. He also made a tough save on a high shot that he trapped between the top of his jersey and his mask.
Lehner was equally as good. He left few rebounds with the Islanders defense clearing the net front. He also stoned Greg McKegg on a breakaway by stacking the pad on his backhand attempt.
The Isles hit the Canes early and often. The fourth line of Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck made their presence felt by delivering some big checks. But Carolina didn’t seem to mind. After a sluggish start following an emotional seven-game first round upset of the Capitals, they found their legs and started using their speed to attack the Isles.
Neither goalie cooperated in regulation. The whole third felt like overtime. There were few whistles with lots of skating and solid checking. It was next goal wins mentality.
The difference was a Clutterbuck mistake. On a three-on-two, he passed up a shooting opportunity. Instead, his pass resulted in a turnover that allowed Carolina to counter. Following a near miss from Niederreiter, Brett Pesce kept the play alive by finding an open Niederreiter in the slot. He sent another shot wide right to Staal, who ended the game.
Game Two is Sunday afternoon at 3 PM on NBC. It’s a must win for the Islanders.
In the night cap, the Sharks scored the last four goals to take Game One over the Avalanche 5-2 at HP Pavilion. The turning point was a successful four-minute penalty kill with San Jose trailing 2-1 halfway through the second. Of course, the Sharks had some fun on Twitter at the Golden Knights’ expense.
Joe Thornton converted a two-on-one from Marcus Sorensen. Kevin Labanc continued his astonishing play by undressing Mikko Rantanen and then whipping a high laser past Philipp Grubauer. Brent Burns banked one in for a 4-2 lead. Timo Meier added an empty netter.
Nathan MacKinnon was held to one assist and finished a minus-three. Rantanen had a goal wiped out due to an illegal kick.
Game Two of the other two series is later today. The Stars look to even up their series against the Blues in St. Louis at 3 PM. In Game One, Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice including the game-winner in a 3-2 home victory.
The Bruins lead the Blue Jackets 1-0 entering tonight’s second game. Columbus rallied in the third period with two goals 13 seconds apart from Brandon Dubinsky and Pierre-Luc Dubois. But they couldn’t protect the lead for Sergei Bobrovsky, who was outstanding.
Charlie Coyle tied the game with a one-timer and won it in overtime. He’s becoming a folk hero. Game Two is at 8 PM.