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Hurricanes can't rely on luck in Game 3 against Islanders

Must play better despite winning first two in playoff series

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Luck is often in the eye of the beholder and coach Rod Brind'Amour can see how the Carolina Hurricanes have experienced both sides of it so far in the Eastern Conference Second Round against the New York Islanders.

Considering the Hurricanes didn't play near their best in the first two games, they feel fortunate to be leading the Islanders 2-0 in the best-of-7 series with Game 3 coming up at PNC Arena on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS). 

They got a bit of a lucky bounce on Jordan Staal's sharp-angle winning goal in a 1-0 overtime victory in Game 1 on Friday and were outplayed for much of Game 2 on Sunday but received goals 48 seconds apart from Warren Foegele and Nino Niederreiter in the opening 1:05 of the third period to pull out a 2-1 win.

 

[RELATED: Complete Islanders vs. Hurricanes series coverage]

 

"I didn't like yesterday's game," Brind'Amour said Monday. "There were a lot of errors. We gave up way too many chances. But the compete was there. I think that's the foundation of our group, so I'm not going to fault anything there."

It's difficult to blame Brind'Amour for feeling that way with the slew of injuries the Hurricanes have experienced. Carolina was already missing forwards Andrei Svechnikov (concussion), Micheal Ferland (upper body) and Jordan Martinook (lower body) before losing goalie Petr Mrazek (lower body), defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk (upper body) and forward Saku Maenalanen (upper body) during Game 2.

Video: Canes beat Isles in Game 2 and take a 2-0 series lead

But somehow, the Hurricanes managed to hold the Islanders to one goal in the first two games, and that one, credited to Mathew Barzal, was deflected in by Carolina defenseman Jaccob Slavin.

"Can we do better? Yes," Brind'Amour said. "The power play was no good again. That has to get better. We gave up a lot of chances for no reason, and that's the part where we got fortunate, for sure. If they're going to get their chances, we have to make sure we make them earn them and can't just give away breakaways and stuff that were just kind of not managing the puck. Those things have got to get cleaned up, but again, we worked really hard and, yeah, you can say we got lucky here and there. 

"But we got unlucky on the first goal. We got unlucky to have all these injuries happen the way they are. So, it's kind of going both ways. It depends on which side of the fence you're on."

The Hurricanes have won four consecutive games since trailing the Washington Capitals 3-2 in the first round despite getting sporadic production from their top forwards throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Staal, who has seven points (three goals, four assists) and Foegele, who is first in the NHL among rookies with five playoff goals, have been clutch, but Carolina is looking for more from others.

Sebastian Aho (two goals, three assists) and Teuvo Teravainen (three goals, two assists) each have five points in the playoffs, Justin Williams has four (one goal, three assists) and Niederreiter has three (one goal, two assists). 

The good news is Niederreiter appears to be heating up. He assisted on Staal's overtime winner in Game 1 and he defected in Teravainen's shot for the winning goal in Game 2.

"He's got to be a big part of this or we're not going to move on," 
Brind'Amour said. "Our best players have got to be involved. That's the way it works this time of year. He's one of them. We've got to get him going. There's other guys too that need to step up their game. But that's good, in my opinion, that we're still playing at this time of year and we've got guys that need to be better."

That's the positive way of looking at it. There are some negatives, beginning with Carolina's power play, which is on a 0-for-21 drought since defenseman Dougie Hamilton scored in the third period (his second power-play goal of the game) of a 5-0 win in Game 3 of the first round against Washington.

The Hurricanes haven't been nearly as good at breaking out of their defensive zone against the Islanders as they were against the Capitals either. 

Some of their good fortune included shots from Islanders forward Jordan Eberle and defenseman Ryan Pulock that went off the crossbar in the third period Sunday.

Video: Hurricanes edge Islanders to grab 2-0 series lead

Brind'Amour knows how quickly those fortunes can turn. In the span of a week, the Hurricanes went from facing elimination in the first round against the Capitals, including surviving two overtimes in a 4-3 win in Game 7, to being two wins away from advancing to Eastern Conference Final.

"It's like this all the time and you've got to be sharp because a week can look great and it can also put you right out of it," Brind'Amour said. "So, that's why it's a mental grind. The physical stuff is what everyone talks about because you see it, guys getting dinged up, but it's that mental grind that really is what the playoffs are all about."

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