The New York Islanders left Barclays Center believing the results were not a reflection of their effort through the first two games of the Second Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
However, on Wednesday night at PNC Arena in Raleigh, the Islanders were not the better team and now face a monumental challenge trailing the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-0.
Teuvo Teravainen scored twice and Sebastian Aho recorded a goal and an assist, as the Hurricanes skated to a 5-2 victory in Game 3. Justin Faulk and Justin Williams also found the back of the net while Curtis McElhinney made 28 saves.
"These are two high-character groups, two groups that value playing both sides of the puck," Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. "They get contributions from their whole lineup. We are similar, systematically a little bit different. The DNA is similar in terms of how they win, and how we win. We just haven't been able to find that extra goal to be on the positive side."
Known throughout the NHL as a team that consistently outworks opponents, the Islanders struggled to find that extra gear and only produced two shots in the final 14:01 Wednesday.
"They got some of their energy, character guys that probably give them a little bit more balance through the lineup which they have had all year," Trotz said of Andrei Svechnikov and Jordan Martinook returning to action for the Hurricanes. "Which allows them to use all four lines a little bit more."
The Islanders' foundation cracked in Raleigh when the team had several lapses in judgment that cost them a chance to climb back into the series. Success for New York has come from a system predicated on strong fundamentals and an excellent defensive structure that eluded them on several occasions throughout Game 3.
Anders Lee missed a defensive assignment at 6:41 of the first period when he failed to cover Teravainen on the back post, leading to an early one-goal lead for Carolina. Adam Pelech was forced to cover Jordan Staal who retreated to the blueline and the Islanders captain let Teravainen slip behind him.
Additionally, defenseman Nick Leddy allowed Faulk to get behind him just after he finished serving a minor penalty and converted a breakaway to help the Hurricanes take a 2-1 lead.
The Islanders were able to erase those two mistakes as Devon Toews connected on a first-period power play, and Josh Bailey was able to wire a wrist shot past McElhinney to even the score 2-2 at 14:13 of the second period.
But, then, the Islanders committed a crucial turnover that they couldn't recover from.
Robin Lehner struggled to clear a puck past Aho which led to Williams scoring the game-winning goal at 10:15 of the third period.
"It was a mistake, I own that one," Lehner said. "One thing about their team is they work incredibly hard. They score a lot of 'scrambly' goals if you want to say. That's because they work hard and put the puck to the net. They attack the net very well, they get those bounces because they work hard."
The Islanders face elimination for the first time this postseason and will need more than a few bounces to go their way if they don't want to head to the golf course just yet.
"We have to earn the right to keep playing," Trotz said. "Our backs are against the wall. We got to come with our best effort and if we don't, we won't earn the right to play. … If our best effort it good enough, will have the right to keep playing."