ELMONT, N.Y. — Paul Stastny scored the game and series-winning goal for the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night, ending the New York Islanders’ season in a 2-1 result in Game 6 of their first-round series on Friday night at UBS Arena.
At the 6:01 mark of overtime, after Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech turned it over at his own blue line, Stastny fired a shot from a difficult angle at the right face-off dot that slid under the pads of goaltender Ilya Sorokin, giving the Hurricanes the 4-games-to-2 series victory.
“He had an opportunity [to clear] but the play itself was a bit of a miscue,” Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said. “It’s just the way it goes. Anytime you give up a goal like that, you can summarize it and break it down in a bunch of different ways. But at this point right now, I thought our guys battled hard.”
Cal Clutterbuck’s first-period goal was canceled out midway through the third period by Carolina’s star forward Sebastian Aho, which proved to be the only regulation blemish conceded by Islanders netminder Ilya Sorokin in a 39-save effort.
Yet Hurricanes netminder Frederik Andersen, playing in his first game of the postseason, was stellar in his first start since April 13, making 35 saves of his own.
While the Islanders controlled the first two periods of the game looking to extend their season, the Hurricanes’ push proved too overwhelming in the third period while down 1-0, outshooting New York 19-5 in the final 20 minutes.
“We had a couple chances to go up by more than one,” Lambert said. “I thought the third period, we failed to execute, had too many turnovers. They came hard and we needed to make more plays.”
Clutterbuck, who has a knack for scoring big Game 6 goals in the postseason, put the Islanders ahead 9:20 into the game when a botched Hurricanes change gave him the entire right wing to maraud down alone before sniping a wrister over the glove of Andersen and just under the crossbar.
Just moments later, Sorokin pulled out one of his finest saves of the season to deny Jesper Fast of what looked like a certain goal. A center feed found the Hurricanes forward alone in front with an open net, but his low show was remarkably turned away by the outstretched toe of the lunging netminder.
While the Islanders successfully killed a pair of penalties in the first period, they nearly had a second goal when Anders Lee dove for a pass beyond his reach that slid toward Andersen and with a one-handed chip, lofted it up on goal. It was saved by the helmet of the goalie and the loose puck was there for Mathew Barzal to stuff it in, but he couldn’t push it through the crowded crease rife with Hurricanes defensemen.
The Islanders continued to monopolize the majority of play into the second period, outshooting the Hurricanes 17-10 in a scoreless middle stanza. There was, however, iron was hit by both teams as Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s one-timer rang off the crossbar over Sorokin before Zach Parise nearly snuck home an impossible-angled wrister from the left goal line that hit the underside of the bar and bounced out.
“A one-goal lead would have given us a little breathing room,” Barzal said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t find it tonight.”
And then the Hurricanes’ push began.
Upping the intensity down a goal in the third period, Carolina threw everything it had at Sorokin and it finally paid off at the 9:24 mark of the frame when Aho caught a pass from Brett Pesce with his glove and managed to bring it down and backhand it in from the crease amidst Islanders defensive pressure.
The chance came off a failed clear attempt that hung up in Brock Nelson’s skates at the right of Sorokin’s goal before Pesce pounced and sent an elevated cross-ice pass to Aho.
“Sometimes when you’re trying to hold on, it doesn’t work well,” Barzal said. “One-goal leads in the playoffs are just not safe.”