Hurricanes sweep Islanders, await Eastern Conference Final opponent

Carolina's 5-2 win Friday put them in the NHL's final four, and the team will meet either Boston or Columbus for a spot in the Stanley Cup Final

Hurricanes forward Teuvo Teravainen celebrates his second-period goal that gave Carolina the lead for good in its 5-2 Game 4 win over the Islanders on Friday at PNC Arena. The win gave the Hurricanes a four-game sweep of New York and a berth in the Easter Conference Final. (Robert Clark / For The North State Journal)

RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes barely had time to catch their breath after going to double overtime to win of Game 7 in their first-round series. After sweeping the New York Islanders with their 5-2 win Friday in front of a 19,495 Friday at PNC Arena, the Hurricanes can now rest and await their opponent in the Eastern Conference Final.

Carolina scored three times in the second period to take control of Game 4, sucking the will out of the Islanders and setting up a matchup with the winner of the Bruins-Blue Jackets series.

“So just proud of these guys — I can’t even tell you,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “They just grinded. It wasn’t pretty, but I think a break is what they need more almost mentally. They need a little rest.”

Teuvo Teravainen started the second-period barrage with the help of some tic-tac-toe passing.

Sebastian Aho fed the puck to Warren Foegele, who one-touched the puck to the other side of Islanders goalie Robin Lehner, where Teravainen had an open net and gave Carolina a 2-1 lead 2:11 into the middle frame.

Just over a minute later, Lehner tried to stop a Brett Pesce point shot but couldn’t locate the puck in front of him. Greg McKegg did, knocking in the rebound for his first career playoff goal and a 3-1 lead at 3:17 of the second.

“Obviously getting one early and getting another one right away was huge,” McKegg said. “It got the crowd into it at the start of the period and kind of carried that momentum throughout the period and into the third. It was nice to seal it up tonight.”

After the McKegg goal,  Lehner — who some speculated would be benched in Game 4 in favor of Thomas Greiss — exited after allowing three goals on 11 shots.

The Hurricanes were no kinder to Greiss. Captain Justin Williams got his third of the playoffs at 8:51, taking a pass from Jordan Staal and banging in the puck in front for a commanding 4-1 lead before the game’s midway point.

Carolina topped it off with a third-period goal by fan favorite Andrei Svechnikov, who was playing in his second game since missing six following a concussion suffered in a fight against Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin.

The Islanders scored late, Brock Nelson’s fourth of the postseason, but by then it was too little, too late.

“Imposing your will on a team and giving them doubt is the key to winning a series, whenever that may be,” Williams said. “And we pushed and we pushed and we pushed, we got a couple goals and got a good lead — that’s how you win a series. You tell the team it’s too hard for them. It was.”

Both teams got on the board early thanks to their respective power plays.

Svechnikov took a high sticking penalty just 73 seconds into the first and, for the second consecutive game, the Islanders took the lead with plenty of man-advantage zone time.

With more than a minute of puck possession, the Islanders’ Devon Toews point shot led to a scramble in front, and Mathew Barzal got his second goal of the series to give New York a 1-0 lead just 2:30 into the game.

The Hurricanes quickly got their own power play opportunity — and finally scored on it for the first time in the series.

Teravainen switched spots with Aho near the right faceoff circle, and Teravainen then got the puck to his Finnish teammate. Aho made a power move and got a shot on Lehner. The rebound bounced in front and hit Adam Pelech and ricocheted in, tying the game just over two minutes after the Islanders had taken the lead.

It was Carolina’s first power play goal in 23 attempts. The last was in Game 3 of the Washington series, when Carolina scored twice with the man advantage.

“A lucky break, but sometimes that’s what you need on the power play,” Williams said. “We’ve obviously dissected and put a lot of onus on ourselves to compete and produce on it, quite frankly. It was a big goal for us to answer.”

And that set up the second period, where Carolina pounced and New York couldn’t keep its head above water.

“We smelled blood, absolutely,” Williams said. “But I think the fans smelled it even more than we did. It was raucous.”

Now the Hurricanes and their fans await the next opponent. A matchup against the Bruins would start with Games 1 and 2 in Boston. If Columbus advances, Carolina would host the first two games and have home-ice advantage.

For now, the Hurricanes will rest and prepare.

“Maybe a day off, and then just keep going at it,” Aho said.

Jordan Martinook, one of the walking wounded who celebrated the Game 4 win on the one-year anniversary on his trade to the Hurricanes from Arizona, welcomed the time off.

“Yeah, I think anybody will take rest,” he said. “If you can get a little bit of that but stay dialed in, that’s exactly what we’re going to be doing.

“Whenever you … don’t have to worry about guys getting hurt and all that, it’s just the extra edge that we can use.”

Notes: Svechnikov had a team-high eight shot attempts and was moved onto a line with Aho and Teravainen in the second period — a trio that is worth remembering for the future. … Foegele’s assist tied him for the most postseason points by a Hurricanes rookie with nine. Erik Cole had nine in 23 games in Carolina’s run to Stanley Cup Final in 2002. Foegele has done it in 11 games. … Defenseman Dougie Hamilton didn’t forget about Islanders forward Brock Nelson patting Hurricanes goalie Curtis McElhinney on the helmet following Mathew Barzal’s first-period goal Wednesday. Hamilton returned the favor, first shaking Nelson’s hand in the end-of-series handshake line, then patting him on the helmet.