Barzal scores 2 including 2OT winner, Islanders keep season alive with 3-2 Game 4 win over Canes

Islanders Hurricanes Barzal
Matthew Barzal (left) celebrates his game-winning goal in the Islanders’ 3-2 2OT win over Carolina (Kevin Kane/KK Images)

ELMONT, N.Y. — The lights on the New York Islanders’ 2023-24 season might be going out soon, but it did not happen on Saturday afternoon. 

Mathew Barzal’s second goal of the game 1:24 into double overtime lifted the Islanders to a 3-2 victory in Game 4 of their first-round series at UBS Arena, trimming their series deficit to a still-daunting 3-1.

The Islanders’ star man, who had been limited to a single assist across the first three games of the series, tipped in a point shot from defenseman Robert Bortuzzo to incite mass celebrations the likes UBS Arena has rarely experienced in its infancy.

“It was a great shot by Bobby to find a lane. He threw it in an area where there’s some bodies,” Barzal said. “Yeah, a lucky bounce.”

Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s rebound clean-up on the power play 1:38 into the third period gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead before the Hurricanes answered with a power play of their own — Stefan Noesen tipping home a wide-open chance with 5:52 to go in regulation to force overtime.

The result avoids the Islanders getting swept for the third-ever time in a postseason best-of-seven series.

“You have no idea how proud I am of this group,” Islanders head coach Patrick Roy said. “They came out and played hard and even if they took the lead, we stayed calm, we stayed focused. Our mindset was really good. The guys were determined to find a way to win this hockey game.”

Semyon Varlamov, who regained starting duties after a temporary deviation to Ilya Sorokin in Game 3, remained brilliant with 42 saves on his 36th birthday to backstop New York while Carolina’s Frederik Andersen turned away 33.

“We’re still in it which is very exciting,” Varlamov said after his big night. “It was an incredible game. I’m just happy.”

The Hurricanes outshot the Islanders 17-10 in the first overtime, but Varlamov kept the Islanders in it — most notably with a blocker save from point-blank range in the final moments when a loose puck found Jesperi Kotkaniemi in the crease.

“You just see the calm demeanor he has, it doesn’t matter the situation,” defenseman Noah Dobson said. “He’s the same Varly. He gives us a lot of composure and calmness back there.”

Seth Jarvis’ power-play opener midway through the first period was canceled out by Mathew Barzal’s brilliant individual effort near the halfway point of the second to send the elimination game into the final period knotted at one apiece.

As they had in two of the previous three games of the series, the Islanders kept up with the favored Hurricanes nearly every step of the way. While Carolina outshot New York 26-25 in regulation, the Islanders won an astounding 30 of 45 face-offs.

“It’s huge,” Roy said. “If you win draws, you put the puck in your o-zone. Even on the penalty kill, you send the puck down so you save maybe 20, 25 seconds.”

But the expected push from the desperate Islanders was derailed 7:14 into the game when the captain, Ander Lee, was called for a tripping penalty on Jalen Chatfield. Just 46 seconds later, Jarvis put the Hurricanes in front when he cleaned up a loose puck that came to a rest in front of Varlamov’s post off a Brent Burns point shot.

Barzal sparked the Islanders back to life following a stale stretch that spanned from the first to second periods. Midway through the middle frame, the star playmaker meandered throughout the Hurricanes’ zone, shrugged off a hit at the left circle and curled back up to the blue line before spinning and firing a wrist shot that beat the glove of Andersen at the 10:10 mark of the second. 

“The puck hasn’t really found the back of the net as of late,” Barzal said. “That one was just, to get the game tied up at our rink and get a bit of momentum, that was a huge play…

“I tried to use mys peed on the outside, turned up, didn’t really see anything… it was a great screen by [Casey Cizikas]… just tried to throw a puck on net. You never know in these playoffs.”

A tripping penalty on Carolina’s Sebastian Aho in the final seconds of the second period set the Islanders up the power play in the third, one that they would cash in on at the 1:38 mark when Pageau cleaned up a rebound off an Andersen blocker save that came from a Noah Dobson shot.

“It’s always fun to contribute offensively,” Pageau said. “My game has not always been scoring goals or making points. It’s more winning my battles, winning my face-offs, be strong with the puck… I was happy to score that goal.”

Bortuzzo’s hooking penalty with 6:26 to go to slow down a streaking Jaccob Slavin entering the Islanders’ zone on a potential breakaway put the hosts down a man and were ultimately made to pay. Noesen was wide-open in front of the Islanders’ net to redirect a centering feed from Tuevo Teravainen past Varlamov to level things at two apiece.

Redemption came int he form of his game-winning assist for Barzal, though, as Game 5 shifts back down to Carolina on Tuesday night.

“I was disappointed to take a penalty in a big moment there,” Bortuzzo said. “Regardless… this is a group that’s resilient and we pick each other up when guys make mistakes and then you get a chance to contribute and one finds the net. Just a case of sticking with it and trying not to get too high or too low in the playoffs.”

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