ELMONT, N.Y. — Following a win on Friday night to draw within one game of tying their first-round series against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Islanders got off to just the kind of start they needed to get to on Sunday afternoon in Game 4 at UBS Arena.
With plenty of jump, they got five quick shots on Antti Raanta’s goal within the first 2:17 of the day, but then the whistles began and it all came undone in a 5-2 loss.
Zach Parise was called for goaltender interference at the 2:41 mark of the first after he was tangled up with Hurricanes defenseman Jalen Chatfield. The veteran forward didn’t make contact with Raanta until Chatfield made contact with him, lifting his stick and sending him backward into the netminder. Head official Wes McCauley blew the Islanders’ attack in the Hurricanes’ zone dead to put a pin in the hosts’ jump.
“I felt like I got pushed in,” Parise said. “Maybe he saw something different but I got to the net and you guys saw it. Nothing much for me to say about it.”
Thirty-eight seconds later, Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock was whistled for a boarding penalty when he crunched Canes forward Jack Drury into the corner boards, knocking him out of the game while putting the Islanders down two men on the penalty kill.
Within 35 seconds, Seth Jarvis had his first of two goals on the day and the Hurricanes were off.
“You got an excited building trying to feed off that energy and all of a sudden, you find yourself killing a 5-on-3 right away,” Parise said. “It’s a little deflating… You have to overcome different things whether it’s calls you don’t like or bounces that don’t go your way. So we’ll have to be better from that standpoint.”
This isn’t the first gripe the Islanders have had with officiating this series. During their 4-3 overtime loss in Game 2 down Raleigh, the Hurricanes were awarded six power plays while the Islanders had none.
“It just seems like it’s been the same around the league… a lot of inconsistency,” Islanders forward Bo Horvat said. “Just what’s being called and what’s not. We can’t sit here and blame the refs the whole time. Nobody else is doing that. We’ve got to find a way to get it done here.”
In total, McCauley’s crew called six penalties in the opening eight minutes of the game, including an embellishment call on Mathew Barzal after Carolina defenseman Brent Burns crushed him into the boards similar to how Pulock hit Drury. Barzal’s back was turned before Burns cross-checked him squarely between the numbers, sending the Islanders’ star playmaker head-first into the boards.
“The same type of thing happened to Barzal with Burns but he got an embellishment,” Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said. “I don’t understand that but the penalties hurt us.”
While Parise’s questionable penalty was an early, major turning point in Game 4, it was Matt Martin’s unnecessary roughing penalty on Carolina’s Mackenzie MacEachern as the first period expired — coming over and hitting the forward from behind while he was jostling with Casey Cizikas — that was the worst.
It put the Islanders on the penalty kill right at the start of the second period and allowed the Hurricanes to open things up. Marty Necas got open at Ilya Sorokin’s left post to finish a one-time feed from Stefan Noesen with 45 seconds remaining in the Martin infraction.
“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,” Horvat said. “We have to find a way to still play hard. We’re doing a lot of good things. We’re still going to play hard, but we have to stay disciplined within that.”
There’s little time for the Islanders to figure it out. They head back down to Carolina trailing 3-1 in the series with one more loss needed to end their season.