A first-round matchup with the defending champs, a knockout punch to their star rookie, numerous injuries up and down the roster, taunting head pats to their backup netminder who just allowed a goal. No matter what is thrown at the Hurricanes this postseason, they continue to find ways to come out on top and are now a win away from a conference finals berth.
Carolina’s resiliency was tested yet again in Game 3, in which the Hurricanes put together a hard-fought defensive showing to win 5–2. The Islanders quickly responded after Carolina’s first two goals, making it nearly impossible for any team to get a real flow going, but New York was unable to respond after Carolina’s third goal and now find themselves in a 3–0 hole heading into Game 4.
Like the first two games of the series, there wasn’t much rhythm for the majority of the night, but Carolina took control of the disjointed game midway through the third when Justin Williams came through again. Robin Lehner tried to play the puck to the corner from behind the net, but Sebastian Aho intercepted and knocked it down to get it to Williams, who swung and got enough of his stick on the puck to score the go-ahead goal. Teuvo Teravainen scored his second of the game on an empty net and Aho notched one of his own to seal the win.
But Williams’s goal wasn’t the only one to feature some aerial skills. After serving a hooking penalty, Justin Faulk jumped out of the box, with Warren Foegele perfectly timing a pass through the air. Faulk snagged the puck and dropped it as he was crossing the blue line for a breakaway chance, going backhand on a poke-checking Lehner to take a 2–1 lead.
Josh Bailey responded about two minutes later, capitalizing on a Foegele turnover and ripping a shot past Curtis McElhinney, who got a little head pat from Islanders forward Brock Nelson before he went behind the net to shove Dougie Hamilton. But the attempt to get under the skin of 35-year-old McElhinney, who was making his first postseason start of his career, wouldn’t work.
The Islanders put on strong performances in the first two games, applying plenty of pressure on McElhinney and Petr Mrazek and pairing that with Lehner making plenty of impressive saves. But that just wasn’t the case in Game 3 when they failed to put together any sustained zone time and Lehner gave up a goal or two he will certainly want back.
After sweeping the Penguins in the opening round, the Islanders are in serious danger of suffering a similar fate on Friday at PNC Arena, where the Hurricanes have yet to lose this postseason.