ELMONT, N.Y. — The New York Islanders’ season is officially on the brink and it took one of their most uninspired, discomposed efforts to help make the untidy bed they find themselves sleeping in.
Taking five penalties and yielding a pair of power-play goals, the Islanders fell to the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2 in Game 4 on Sunday afternoon at UBS Arena to fall into a 3-1 first-round series hole heading back down to Raleigh for Game 5 on Tuesday night. One more loss and their season is over.
“I thought we took a couple of undisciplined penalties, no question,” Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said. “It totally slowed our momentum.”
It’s the first time since Game 4 of the 2007 postseason against the Buffalo Sabres (excluding the COVID bubble) that the Islanders dropped a home playoff game by multiple goals.
Seth Jarvis scored a pair for the Hurricanes, who — despite being up the series — outworked and out-willed an Islanders team that at times couldn’t get out of its own way.
A fast start by the hosts was quickly bogged down by the officiating crew, who called six penalties in the first eight minutes of the game. That included a goalie interference infraction on Islanders forward Zach Parise, who was pushed into Hurricanes netminder Antti Raanta by defenseman Jalen Chatfield. On that man advantage, which evolved into a 5-on-3 following a Ryan Pulock boarding penalty, Jarvis cleaned up a loose puck that Ilya Sorokin couldn’t swallow up to put the visitors in front at the 4:05 mark.
“The 5-on-3 shifted things a little bit,” Lambert said. “I thought he got pushed in. Chatfield certainly pushed him into the goaltender. Sometimes that happens and then next thing you know, we’re down 5-on-3.”
“I felt like I got pushed in,” Parise added. “Maybe [the referee] saw something different but I got to the net and you guys saw it. Nothing much for me to say about it.”
It was just their second shot of the game and the only tally of a dragged-out opening period that had one more penalty in store when Matt Martin flattened Mackenzie MacEachern, who started mixing it up with Casey Cizikas by the benches and well away from the puck as the buzzer for intermission sounded.
The Hurricanes took full advantage of it, as Martin Necas one-timed a cross-post feed from behind the net by Stefan Noesen to double the Islanders’ deficit 1:15 into the period.
“The penalty at the end of the first hurt us,” Lambert said. “We made a mistake on the penalty kill… that second [goal] was a real stinger.”
So began a second period in which the Islanders were thoroughly outclassed by the hungrier-looking Hurricanes, who held the Islanders to just two shots in the first 12 minutes.
“You start off the second period in the box again, it just kills momentum and the rhythm of lines and stuff all over the board,” forward Bo Horvat said.
Islanders defenseman Alexander Romanov whiffed a dump-in attempt at center ice, which led to a turnover springing MacEachern on a 2-on-1 break with Sebastian Aho. One pass, a one-timer by Aho, and it was a three-goal lead in a blink for Carolina with 5:30 to go in the second.
Just 1:20 into the third period saw Jarvis nab his second on a breakaway created by an Islanders turnover at the Carolina blue line.
Adam Pelech pulled one back for the Islanders just 1:54 later when he pounced on a loose puck that squirted out of a scramble in front of Raanta’s goal and roofed it, but they’d draw no closer. MacEachern, who hadn’t dressed for the Hurricanes all season, got their fifth when he fired a wrister past Sorokin with 5:59 to go in regulation.
Horvat got a consolation goal and his first of the postseason shorthanded when he beat Raanta on a breakaway with 2:03 to go.
“We have to keep the same mindset we have and have had,” Lambert said. “We have to get ready for the next game.”