BROOKLYN — The Barclays Center doesn’t seem as hospitable as the Nassau Coliseum for the New York Islanders.
Jordan Staal’s game-winning goal four minutes into overtime lifted the Carolina Hurricanes to a 1-0 victory in Game 1 of the Islanders’ Eastern Conference second-round series, spoiling Robin Lehner’s 31-save outing.
“We knew they were going to throw a lot of weird stuff,” Lehner said. “And they win on a s— bounce.”
Despite his frustration, Lehner could do little to stop Carolina’s winner as a shot from ex-Islander Nino Niederreiter missed wide to the Islanders goalie’s right, bounced off the boards to an open Staal, who slotted his shot from the end wall.
It rewarded Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek with the victory as he turned away all 31 Islanders shots, providing some big-time stops to help frustrate New York’s offense.
His heroics secured the Islanders’ first loss of the postseason this year after making easy work of the Pittsburgh Penguins in a first-round sweep.
The quick series victory — just the organization’s third since 1993 — prompted the nearly week-and-a-half break between rounds while the Hurricanes overcame a 3-2 series deficit to unseat the defending Stanley Cup-champion Washington Capitals in seven games on Wednesday night.
While there was an initial worry about there being some rust in the Islanders’ game, the notion quickly disappeared a few minutes into the game as New York quickly acclimated back up to playoff speed as they were not short of chances.
Yet the puck just didn’t seem to bounce for the Islanders, including a pair of wide-open, one-timed misses from Brock Nelson.
“I think once the first period was completely over with, we were fine. But you could see timing, quick plays, they did a good job getting on us knowing that we hadn’t had that time in for a week,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said. “That’s not an excuse. We knew that was going to happen and we knew we were going to have to play through a little bit of that rust and we survived it. We held them and they held us.”
Mrazek did get a reprieve from the officials when a Mathew Barzal goal was waived off with 2:56 remaining in the second period after Lee was called for goaltender interference despite being pushed into Mrazek by Hurricanes forward Lucas Wallmark.
“When I first looked at it, I thought Lee got pushed in there,” Trotz said. “Those are hard because it’s considered no goal and a penalty and you can’t really challenge the penalty because they didn’t call it a goal.”
The first 64 minutes of this series only confirmed that this could be a low-scoring matchup based on the team-first approach of both teams. The Hurricanes are as close to a carbon copy of the Islanders as one can find in the NHL, keeping a resolute defense to stymie the opponent.”
“We know it’s going to be like that all series. Tight team. We played tight, they played tight, there’s not a lot of room out there,” Islanders forward Jordan Eberle said. “We had our chances, we had some good looks… [Lehner] was great. We had some plays that kind of game them odd-man rushes and that was uncharacteristic of our play… We’re a good team, we’re going to bounce back.”