May 25, 2024

‘Lucky bounces’ the difference as Hurricanes oust Islanders


After their Game 5 victory, Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brady Skjei noted the key difference between his team and the New York Islanders, the team it eliminated Tuesday night.

“Those lucky bounces went our way,” he said after the Hurricanes’ 6-3 win in Raleigh.

The Hurricanes’ Jack Drury and Stefan Noesen scored eight seconds apart in the third period, the fastest two goals in a playoff game in franchise history. That broke their previous record of nine seconds between goals, which was set in the third period of Game 2 against the Islanders.

Drury’s goal came on a deflected puck that the Islanders couldn’t clear from their zone. Noesen scored eight seconds later on a bounce off the side boards that sailed directly to the Islanders’ net.

“It sucks that we’re done playing. It’s just a tough way to lose a game like that,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said. “We were grinding back. Stayed in the fight all night. We believed we were going to win this hockey game. And then two bounces like that. … It’s tough to swallow.”

The five-game series was a tough, competitive matchup between the second and third seeds in the Metro Division. But after the Islanders won Game 4 in double-overtime to avoid elimination, the Hurricanes came out strong back at home to try to finish them off.

The Hurricanes built a 2-0 lead in the first 3:13 of the game on goals by Teuvo Teravainen and Andrei Svechnikov, whose power-play tally deflected off the stick of Islanders defenseman Robert Bortuzzo.

Mike Reilly‘s power-play goal just 41 seconds after Svechnikov’s tally made it 2-1, but Carolina increased its lead again on a Evgeny Kuznetsov penalty shot goal that the Hurricanes earned when Islanders defenseman Alexander Romanov covered the puck in the crease with his glove. Acquired at the trade deadline from the Capitals, Kuznetsov used his trademark slow-skating approach — clocking in at 4 mph when he shot the puck — to outlast goalie Semyon Varlamov.

“The closer he gets to the net, the more comfortable we feel,” Hurricanes forward Seth Jarvis said. “We know how nasty he is. He’s done it to us a few times. To see it work for us in a moment like that is absolutely massive.”

But the Islanders rallied in the second period. Brock Nelson scored at 3:47 when his shot deflected off the stick of Carolina defender Jalen Chatfield. They tied the game with 22 seconds left in the period as Casey Cizikas scored his first of the playoffs on a play that saw goalie Frederik Andersen lose his balance and fall near his right goalpost.

“We knew we let them crawl back into it in the second,” said Jarvis, who would add an empty netter before the buzzer. “You never want to do that, especially against a team like that. But we have so many good veterans that kept us calm. We didn’t get flustered.”

Then disaster struck for the Islanders in an eight-second span. Drury scored at 4:36 on a broken play in the offensive zone. Noesen scored eight seconds later on a terrible bounce for New York. Off the faceoff, defenseman Skjei fired the puck into the offensive zone. Varlamov went behind the net, anticipating the puck would reach him. Instead, it ricocheted off the side boards and slid toward the crease, where an alert Noesen tucked it home.

“The first one was just a bouncing puck that settled down for their guy on the weak side. The second goal, it’s just a s—ty bounce. Not a whole lot you can do,” Islanders winger Kyle Palmieri said. “It stings to get put down by two like that. But we battled back from down two earlier in the game. We knew we had our backs against the wall and we battles our asses off to try and find a way to try and win it.”

Lee said he’s proud of the fight the Islanders showed this season.

“At no point in this season or in this series did anyone take their foot off the gas and stop believing what we’re doing,” he said. “It’s a tight series. We didn’t get what we needed. Didn’t get that extra bounce. They got two tonight.”

The Hurricanes advance to face the New York Rangers in the second round. Coach Rod Brind’Amour said his team will have to improve its game after dispatching the Islanders.

“The Rangers are the best team in the league, right?” he said. “We know what they’re all about: just immense talent, coached really well, good goaltending. What don’t they have? We’re going to have to play better if we expect to win.”

A little more good puck luck wouldn’t hurt, either.

“It’s the playoffs. It’s one play here or there that makes the difference in the game,” Brind’Amour said. “Tonight we were the fortunate ones to get that bounce.”



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