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New York Islanders

Islanders Fall On Face To End Season



AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker

The New York Islanders fought, clawed and scratched their way through a roller coaster season. In Game 5 of their first-round playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Islanders’ hands were too busy to break their fall as their season came to an end in a 6-3 loss at PNC on Tuesday night.

In an instant, the Islanders had their season wiped out, as for the second time in the series, the Hurricanes scored twice in less than 10 seconds to earn a win.

With the score tied at 3-3 at 4:36 of the third period, Jack Drury threaded a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle by Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov to push Carolina in front. Eight seconds later, Carolina scored again. After winning the ensuing faceoff, the Hurricanes dumped the puck into the attacking zone, where it caromed off the end boards past Varlamov as he attempted to play it and directly to Stefan Noesen for an easy tap-in goal.

“That’s just a tough way to lose a game like that,” Anders Lee told reporters in Raleigh. “We were grinding back, stayed in the fight all night and believed what we were doing was working. We believed we were going to win this hockey game, and then two bounces like that. It’s tough to swallow.”

Even still, for the Islanders to have hung with the Hurricanes for the majority of this opening-round playoff series was an accomplishment, as was the fact that they managed to make Game 5 interesting after a disastrous start.

Teuvo Teravainen stunned the Islanders 1:23 into the game, scoring from an awkward angle with a shot that glanced off Varlamov’s shoulder to put the Hurricanes on the board. Andrei Svechnikov then added to Carolina’s lead at 3:13 with a power play goal that deflected in off the stick of Robert Bortuzzo after Hudson Fasching was sent to the penalty box for cross-checking.

Down 2-0 following the two fastest goals to begin a game in Hurricanes’ playoff history, the Islanders were thrown a lifeline, one that Mike Reilly grabbed hold of with a power play goal of his own at 3:54 of the first while Jesperi Kotkaniemi served a slashing penalty.

Nevertheless, the first period very much belonged to the Hurricanes as they held a 21-4 advantage in shots on goal at the end of 20 minutes as well as a two-goal lead.

As if the if the period didn’t come with enough offense, Carolina was awarded a penalty shot at 13:22 of the frame when Alexander Romanov used his hand to cover the puck while sitting at the bottom of a mad scramble in the Islanders’ crease.

Elected to take the shot for the Hurricanes, Evgeny Kuznetsov lulled Varlamov to sleep with his pattened slow crawl toward the goal before ripping a shot that made it 3-1 Carolina.

“It’s tough [for a goalie,” Islanders head coach Patrick Roy told reporters in Raleigh. “[Kuznetsov] made a great move at the last second. He put it just above the pad, and it was a nice play by him.”

With their backs against the wall, the Islanders used the second period to tip the scales in their favor.

Brock Nelson scored off the rush to make it a one-goal game at 3:47 of the middle frame by beating Hurricanes netminder Frederik Andersen with a glove-side wrister via assists from Kyle Palmieri and Ryan Pulock.

Then, with seconds ticking down in the period, Casey Cizikas hit a wide-open net with a one-time chance, tying the score after a wild bounce of the puck pulled Andersen from his crease.

But ultimately, all was for nothing as Seth Jarvis put the final nail in the Islanders’ coffin with an empty net goal at 18:21 of the third period.

“I am very proud of this group,” Roy said. “They were resilient. Even tonight, they showed that’s how they were all year. It would have been easy to pack in, and it’s not what we did. We kept pushing and trying to find ways to come back in that game.”

With their season now officially over, the Islanders face an identity crisis as they turn to the offseason.

Veteran forward Cal Clutterbuck may have played his final game as an Islander on Tuesday, as he will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. So, too, will be his longtime linemate Matt Martin, who, after enduring multiple injuries this season, including one that forced him to miss the final two games of the series against Carolina, might be at the end of his career altogether.

But for the time being, it’s an end to another year of hockey on Long Island.