–So incredibly happy for Curtis McElhinney. To this day, I do not think the Canes are where they are right now if he is not a stabilizing force in October and November when team was on brink of digging too big of a hold and being eliminated from playoff contention really early.
–The third period was easily the Canes best of this series and also among the best in the playoffs. Even after the Islanders fell down a goal and desperately needed to muster shots and offense, they went >12 minutes without putting the puck on net. The forecheck was in peak form, and the defensemen retrieved and moved pucks well such that the Canes rarely had to defend in the third period.
–Understated story of this game was the depth players. The fourth line was incredibly good, arguably the team’s best, in terms of controlling play. It was unfair that they did not net a goal, but there contribution was huge nonetheless. Haydn Fleury played an uneventful game in a good way in replacing Trevor van Riemsdyk.
–Matching what was happening on the ice, I also thought the third period was at or near peak playoffs in terms of atmosphere, energy and sustained volume.
Carolina Hurricanes game recap
Despite the Hurricanes winning both games 1 and 2 in New York, I said after each game that the Hurricanes would at some point need to re-find a higher gear to win the series. A home game for game 3 set up as a great opportunity for exactly that. And early on, the game looked promising. The Hurricanes started reasonably well and then gained the upper hand on the scoreboard when Teuvo Teravainen scored from literally six inches away, tapping the puck into the net from the far post on yet another Jaccob Slavin assist. At that point the possibility of finding a higher gear looked positive, but the Hurricanes almost immediately lapsed after that giving the Islanders consecutive power plays within the next five minutes. The Islanders scored on the first power play when the Hurricanes three times had the puck on a Canes player’s stick but failed to clear the zone (Pesce X2 and a forward). The result was a tired lot of penalty killers and an Islanders goal. The Hurricanes were pressured again for the second Islanders power play but survived it. The two power plays seemed to swing momentum back to the Islanders. The Hurricanes reverted back to having intermittent puck management issues at the two blue lines. The first period that looked promising early but was not as good in the second half ended with the score tied at 1-1 and shots close to even at 11 to 10 for the Islanders.
The second period started a bit like the first period ended. It is not clear if it was Brind’Amour picking match ups or possibly Trotz opening things up a bit trying desperately to find more scoring, but the middle part of the Wednesday’s game was much more open through the neutral zone than the previous two games. The Hurricanes continued to have intermittent issues managing the puck. The Canes scored next when Warren Foegele made a perfectly-timed aerial pass to Justin Faulk at the offensive blue line just after he had come out of the penalty box. He skated in alone and scored on a pretty finish just up under the bar on his backhand. But the Hurricanes sloppy puck management that was there earlier in the game was still around in the second period. The result was a play that saw both Foegele and Aho mishandle a puck just inside the defensive blue line. The result was a quick transition point and a shot that beat McElhinney to tie the game at 2-2. The Hurricanes continued to have intermittent puck management issues with Aho’s line struggling the most. Each of Aho, Williams and Foegele had blue line turnovers, and as noted above the Isles goal came when Aho and Foegele each failed to clear the puck from barely inside the blue line. The period ended at 2-2 and set the stage for another third period to decide the outcome.
The Hurricanes finally re-found a higher gear in the third period. The front part of the period was a bit back and forth, but as the period wore on the Hurricanes were the better team. The forecheck was the best it has been this series, and the blue line was incredibly good at retrieving and advancing the puck from the defensive zone. As the period wore on, the Hurricanes played less and less defense. Then finally Justin Williams staked the Hurricanes to a 3-2 lead when Aho knocked down a Robin Lehner clearing attempt and quickly fed it to Williams for a quick tally. Then despite having even greater reason to push for shots on net, the Islanders mustered virtually nothing. The Isles went from 14:01 remaining to 3:28 remaining without a shot on net. The Hurricanes defended the one goal lead until a pair of empty-netters sealed the deal. First it was Teuvo Teravainen with 1:02 remaining. Then it was Sebastian Aho with just five seconds remaining.
I stand by what I said on Twitter shortly after the game ended which is that the third period was the best period of hockey that the Hurricanes have played in this series. In addition, the building reached peak playoff level in the third period.
Player and other notes
1) Curtis McElhinney
After starting only one game in April, McElhinney started May with a bang. With the potential to rest Mrazek without significantly impacting the Hurricanes chance to win, I would expect to see McElhinney in net again on Friday.
2) Sebastian Aho’s line
The trio of Foegele, Aho and Williams scored late to lead the way to a win, but otherwise the group struggled at times. Aho turned the puck over multiple times in the neutral zone. Foegele and Aho were both culprits on the Islanders second goal. Credit Aho and Williams for making one huge play when the Canes needed it.
3) The fourth line of Martinook, McKegg and Brown
I really think one could make a case that the fourth line was the team’s best on Wednesday. Martinook, McKegg and Brown regularly played entire shifts in the defensive zone and seemed to be on the brink of scoring a well-deserved goal. The trio did not score but as I said above, might actually have been the team’s best line. Brind’Amour seemed to agree and rewarded them with ice time. McKegg logged 11:30 of ice time, and Patrick Brown logged 9:30.
4) Andrei Svechnikov and Haydn Fleury
I thought both players played well after the layoff. Svechnikov rang the post in the middle of the game and more generally was not hesitant to change his play physically. Fleury also played well. He brought his usual brand of conservative hockey in the form of a big body that can handle the rigors of playoff hockey.
5) Jaccob Slavin
Slavin continued his every-game leadership. He logged 26:12 of ice time which is a lot for a regulation game, and along the way he picked up two more assists to now have 12 in only 10 games.
Up next is a Friday match up against the Islanders.