Kevin SchultzThe Islanders took it to a sleep-walking Hurricanes team tonight in North Carolina. With four goals in the first period including three in the first six minutes, the Islanders jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first and (almost) didn’t look back.
Unlikely scorer Colin McDonald scored two of the Isles first three goals, which helped to chase Carolina netminder Cam Ward after only six saves in 6:12 of game time. McDonald jammed at a loose puck in the crease to open the scoring only 3:39 into the game and, after Cal Clutterbuck made it 2-0, McDonald deposited a brilliant feed from Calvin de Haan in the back of the net. The goals were McDonald’s seventh and eighth of the year.
After Anton Khudobin came on in relief of Ward, Matt Martin extended the lead to 4-0 at just past the halfway mark of the first period. Kevin Czuczman came streaking up the ice and put a shot on net. It appeared as though Ryan Strome had a chance at it before Martin picked up the rebound and put it in, behind a confused Khudobin.
Carolina settled down in the second half of the period and got two goals back. The first was a power play marker from Jeff Skinner off of Johan Sundstrom’s first NHL penalty. Andrei Loktionov added one to cut the lead to 4-2.
Towards the start of the second period that sinking feeling wasn’t your dinner, it was the ‘oh no here we go again’ as Carolina closed the lead to 4-3 after Alex Semin’s power play goal three minutes into the second. The Islanders had let a four-goal lead get cut to one. The teams would trade goals as Martin would get one back for the Islanders and Nathan Gerbe added one to make it 5-4 at the end of the second.
After nine goals in the first two periods, no one managed to find the back of the net in the third and the game ended with the Islanders holding on by one. It was a good road win for the team but, at the same time, gives them that much higher of a draft pick. It’s backwards, but the players on the ice couldn’t care less about the draft position, I’m sure. That’s just the nature of how these things go.
The Islanders are fourth from the bottom of the league and are five points better than the Florida Panthers with ten games to go. It’s not out of the question but it would be surprising to see the Panthers pass the Isles. Calgary is two points better than the Isles and, after that, Carolina and Ottawa are six points better. It looks as though they’ll enter the draft lottery in the fourth or fifth position.
Next up for the Islanders is a trip to Tampa Bay on Thursday before returning home on Saturday.