ELMONT, N.Y. — Neither the Hurricanes nor the Islanders could get much of anything going on the power play in Friday’s Game 3 of their first round playoff series.
But all it took was one, and it was the home team that got it with just under four minutes left in the game to break a stalemate and send the Islanders to a 5-1 win in front of 17,255 at UBS Arena on Long Island and cut Carolina’s series lead to 2-1.
Islanders forward Kyle Palmieri deflected a shot by teammate Sebastian Aho with one second remaining on a Brady Skjei high-sticking penalty at 16:09 of the third period to give New York a 2-1 lead.
The Hurricanes had killed off 17:59 of Islanders power play time in the series before the go-ahead goal.
“I give the guys credit. I mean, we almost did it,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said of getting through the penalty-filled third period. “And really it was just a floater in going a couple of feet wide, great tip in front. And that was the goal. So it’s unfortunate, but you can’t take the penalties.”
The Islanders scored three more times in the final minutes with the game decided, but Carolina’s fate was sealed by its inability to score, specifically on the power play.
The Hurricanes managed just three shots on goal in four opportunities — one of those power plays never happened as New York’s Casey Cizikas was called for roughing with 2 seconds left in the game but the officials shut the game down after tensions flared — and looked mostly ineffective throughout the night.
“The power play cost us the game, that was clear,” Brind’Amour said. “In the second, we had a couple and we needed to do more there (to) at least give us some life, more than anything. You can’t just rely on killing penalties, that’s not going to work. So we needed more out of the power play, clearly.”
The Hurricanes’ power play seemed to sap the life out of the team in the second period following its third chance of the night. Shortly after, a clearing attempt by Hurricanes forward Derek Stepan went right to New York defenseman Ryan Pulock inside the blue line.
Pulock backhanded a pass to Casey Cizikas deep in the right circle, and his one-timer fluttered under the left arm of Antti Raanta (32 saves) for a 1-0 Islanders lead at 12:49 of the middle frame.
“We’re for sure gonna talk about it,” Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho said of Carolina’s wilting power play. “We’re gonna see what we need to do better and come up with a good plan to score goals. … It’s more (winning) your battles out there, it’s executing the passes.”
The Islanders’ power play then one-upped Carolina’s, and not in a good way.
First, Carolina’s Aho, without a stick after it broke on the faceoff, managed to get a clear by deflecting a pass with his skate.
“You feel kind of useless there without the stick,” Aho said. “Just kind of got a lucky break there.”
Carolina changed up its penalty killers, and Jordan Staal got a clear and created a 2-on-1 rush.
The Hurricanes captain rushed up the left wing and passed to Game 2 hero Jesper Fast, whose shot trickled past Ilya Sorokin (30 saves) to tie the game 1-1.
“It was kind of a big play at the moment,” Aho said of the sequence. “Obviously, it gave us a chance to change. … We got a 2-on-1, and unreal execution by Jordan and Quickie.”
Carolina, however, couldn’t muster any more offense, the second time in the series the team has been held without a 5-on-5 goal.
Both Brind’Amour and Aho pointed to the third period penalties — the Islanders had three power plays in an 11-minute stretch — as knocking the Hurricanes out of sync at even strength.
“You’re in the box the whole period, couldn’t get anything going, rhythm’s off,” Brind’Amour said.
After the Islanders broke the tie on the power play, forward Matt Martin added an insurance goal 44 seconds later to extend the lead to 3-1. An empty-net goal at 18:11 by Scott Mayfield and a garbage time goal by Anders Lee in the final two minutes skewed Raanta’s numbers in an otherwise solid performance.
Carolina will look to bounce back Sunday in a Game 4 matinee at UBS Arena.
“We know how they play, they know how we play, and there’s not a whole bunch of room,” Hurricanes forward Jordan Martinook said. “So I don’t think you’re gonna see high-scoring games. … We’ll look at some things and come back Sunday.”
Notes: Six misconducts were handed out in the final minute of regulation: Lee, Cizikas and Martin for the Islanders, and Jalen Chatfield, Brett Pesce and Jack Drury for the Hurricanes. … Fast led both teams with five shots on goal, one shy of his career high.