It changed in a matter of moments for the Islanders Sunday afternoon.
The Islanders entered the third period of Game 2 with a one-goal lead, but in the first 65 seconds of the final frame, the game was flipped upside down when the Hurricanes lit the lamp twice and stormed to a 2-1 victory
Warren Foegele wired a wrister from a sharp angle just 17 seconds into the third period, and then former Islander Nino Niederreiter redirected a puck past Robin Lehner 48 seconds later to give the Hurricanes a one-goal advantage they would never relinquish.
"It's pretty simple, we played our game for close to 59 minutes," Islanders captain Anders Lee said. "Credit to them for popping two and holding us at the end."
New York was 20 minutes from knotting the series but couldn't protect a third-period lead like it had done throughout the regular season. (The Islanders were 34-2-4 entering the third period with a lead.)
"That's the cruel reality sometimes, you play really well and don't get the result," Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. "Play our game, play it hard and give everything you have. We just didn't get the result."
But, after faltering twice at Barclays Center, the Islanders travel south trailing the Hurricanes 2-0.
New York has successfully dictated the play through the first two games, limiting Carolina to three shots in the first period and only 18 over the course of 60 minutes in Game 2. The Islanders uncharacteristically turned the puck over and failed to safely clear the defensive zone on several occasions which led to extended zone time but few legitimate scoring chances.
But on the other side of the ice, the Islanders have been unable to notch the timely goal that was scored time and time again against the Penguins in the opening round of the postseason.
"We need to keep playing to our identity," forward Matt Martin said. "We just have to find a way to bury our chances. You let a team hang around, you see how quickly things can change."
Protecting third-period leads was a rampant problem in recent years for the Islanders, but Trotz and his staff implemented a system and attitude that have helped this team thrive when the game is at its tightest.
"You just need to believe," forward Leo Komarov said. "Keep doing what we have been doing all year. It's not going to be easy but we knew that from the beginning."
While the Islanders remain confident as a group and can leave Brooklyn knowing this series could be completely reversed, they will have to show just how resilient they are once again.
"We have found a way to frustrate teams throughout the playoffs and you can't let them reverse it back," alternate captain Josh Bailey said. "Game 3 is about finding a way to get the win first and foremost. … You want to play with that desperation, but not let that frustration creep in. We won't let that happen. It's about sticking with our game plan, doing the things that give us success."
The Islanders do not have to go back to the drawing board or develop a new strategy to handle the Hurricanes. They just need to replicate the same mentality they had all season long and continue to play with urgency as they have in the first two games.
"We have battled through stuff all year," defenseman Adam Pelech said. "It hasn't come easy to us all year, we have had to earn everything that we've gotten. It takes four to win the series. We are going to have one focus here and that's about finding a way to win Game 3."