For all the good there was for the New York Islanders on Wednesday night, the moment that will stick in their memories from Game 2 of their Round One series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Carolina Hurricanes will be the one that won’t appear on any official score sheet.
In overtime, with the game tied at three, defenseman Scott Mayfield took a high stick to the face from Carolina forward Jordan Martinook and went down to the ice covering his face. Although it appeared to be a textbook infraction, the referees didn’t make the call.
With Mayfield down, Carolina had a three-on-two odd-man rush. Jesper Fast rifled the game-winning goal underneath the crossbar.
When asked if he ever received an explanation from either the league or referees for the non-call, Islanders head coach Lane Lambert answered with a solemn “No.”
When asked if he found it bothersome that a call was never made, Lambert responded with an exasperated “Yes.”
The Islanders clawed back from an early two-goal deficit, killed five of six penalties, and nearly doubled the Canes in hits. But even after all that, they’ll head back to Long Island trailing in the series two games to none.
“We gotta go home, turn the page, and refocus,” said Brock Nelson, who scored at 9:18 into the third period to give the Islanders a 3-2 lead. “We have to come out with a similar effort. I can’t imagine it’s going to be six penalties against and none for in the next game. So, we look forward to special teams playing and playing a part in the next game, and we got to do the job done at home.”
Special teams were the deciding factor in both games in the series thus far. After not scoring on their four attempts in Game 1, the Islanders never even had a chance on the man advantage in Game 2. Meanwhile, three of the seven Carolina goals in the series have come with an Islander sitting in the penalty box.
Along with Nelson, Kyle Palmieri scored his first goal of the postseason while Mathew Barzal found the back of the net for the first time since Feb. 9. The Islanders appeared to have all the momentum after Nelson lit the lamp until Jaccob Slavin evened the score for Carolina three minutes later.
The Canes once again fired a barrage of shots on Ilya Sorokin, who stopped 32 of 36 pucks in goal for the Isles. However, the one he should’ve had came from his teammate. With the Islanders nearly through their second double minor penalty of the evening, Sebastian Aho innocently flicked a puck back toward his goal that trickled past Sorokin to give Carolina a 2-0 advantage.
Even still, as was the case in Game 1, the Islanders were not outplayed on Wednesday night. A bounce here, a no-call there, and you’re suddenly down two games to none.
“I thought we made more plays tonight,” Lambert said. “I thought we thought we played fast. I thought it was a good hockey game. We were physical. We continue to hit, and we continue to invest. So that’s what we have to do. We just have to get ready for the next one.”
The next one will be Game 3 on Friday night for the first-ever playoff game at UBS Arena, with puck drop set for 7 p.m.