RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ Nobody can say the New York Islanders backed into the
playoffs this year.
Mariusz Czerkawski and Adrian Aucoin each scored twice to help the Islanders
clinch their third straight playoff appearance with a 6-4 victory Friday night
over the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Islanders slumped toward the end of last season, and clinched eighth
place when the New York Rangers fell apart even worse down the stretch. The
Islanders' struggles led to the firing of coach Peter Laviolette, now the
Hurricanes' coach, after their first-round playoff exit.
``I'm happy, but more important I'm happy for the 24 guys in that room,''
said Steve Stirling, who replaced Laviolette last spring. ``They didn't need to
hear from anybody that they backed in, or didn't get in. They needed to win
their way in and they did.''
The Islanders ran up a 6-1 lead going into the third, and the hapless
Hurricanes contributed bad play and bad luck, with a potential tying goal waved
off, a fruitless penalty shot and four failed efforts by the NHL's worst power
``We just didn't execute,'' Laviolette said. ``We didn't keep them
contained, we got beat on the walls, we turned pucks over. Basically we got
what we deserved.''
New York secured the final postseason berth in the Eastern Conference,
eliminating Buffalo from the race. The Islanders are only one point behind
Montreal for seventh place, with each team having one game remaining.
``We wanted to do it on our own _ not waiting for anybody else to do it. We
wanted to control the game to the end,'' Czerkawski said.
The Islanders qualified for the playoffs in three straight years for the
first time since a 14-year run from 1975-88. They were helped when Carolina had
a goal waved off that would've tied it at 2.
New York quickly responded with four straight goals within a span of 7:27 to
blow the game open.
``That was tough. That would have maybe changed the momentum. It went in
their favor and they just jumped on it from there,'' Laviolette said.
Carolina enforcer Jesse Boulerice had two goals, but the Hurricanes were
0-for-4 on the power play and managed only one shot during a two-man advantage
in the second period.
Rod Brind'Amour and Eric Staal scored in the third to bring Carolina within
The Hurricanes thought they'd gotten even at 2 early in the second period,
but the officials said the whistle blew before Josef Vasicek's shot went in.
``It was definitely the turning point in the game. We were right there with
them at that point,'' Boulerice said. ``They got a couple of quick ones and
that took the wind out of our sails.''
Carolina goalie Kevin Weekes was pulled after giving up five goals on 17
shots. Eric Cole fired wide on a penalty shot with 5:46 left.
The Islanders opened the scoring on the power play 11:57 in. Oleg Kvasha
drew Weekes to the right side of the net, then Alexei Yashin passed through
traffic to Czerkawski on the open left side to make it 1-0.
Aucoin made it 2-0 just a minute later, intercepting a bad Hurricanes pass
near center ice and scoring off his rebound.
Carolina got on the board at 14:19 of the first as Boulerice scored against
Rick DiPietro from just above the crease.
The Islanders put the game out of reach in the second. Czerkawski's second
goal made it 3-1 two minutes in. Yashin and Trent Hunter added goals 44 seconds
apart to send Weekes to the bench in favor of Arturs Irbe. Aucoin's second goal
made it 6-1 at 14:12.
Boulerice made it 6-2 six minutes into the third, bouncing the puck off the
shin of Islanders defenseman Eric Cairns and past DiPietro.
Cole's penalty shot could've pulled the Hurricanes within 6-4.