RALEIGH, N.C. -- Justin Williams scored a tiebreaking goal in the third period, and the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the New York Islanders 5-2 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Second Round at PNC Arena on Wednesday.
Carolina can sweep the best-of-7 series by winning Game 4 here Friday.
"We're up 3-0. They say the last one's the hardest, and it always is when the other team's backs are against the wall," Williams said. "We certainly don't want to go back [to New York for Game 5], but if we have to we will. But we're going to work our tails off to hopefully get it done in four."
[WATCH: Islanders vs. Hurricanes Game 3 highlights | Complete series coverage]
Williams gave the Hurricanes a 3-2 lead with 9:45 remaining after a turnover by Robin Lehner. The Islanders goalie tried to clear the puck into the corner, but Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho intercepted it and quickly passed to Williams, who shot past Lehner's left shoulder.
"I made a read, I saw him on the forehand, so I kind of cheated on the boards," Aho said. "I just tried to knock it out of the air, and I got a piece of it."
Video: NYI@CAR, Gm3: Williams on team's belief in themselves
Teams that lead an NHL best-of-7 playoff series 3-0 are 188-4 (.979).
"We're always confident we can get the next one," Lehner said. "Unfortunately, the last couple of games, we haven't gotten it. But coming in 2-2 into the third period, I thought I was playing well. I had a bunch of saves. It comes down to that play. I [messed] up."
Curtis McElhinney made 28 saves for Carolina, becoming the oldest goalie to start his first Stanley Cup Playoff game.
"I thought we did a great job," the 35-year-old said. "I think it was even a little tighter than the last game we played (a 2-1 win). It was a great effort and a huge third period for us again."
Devon Toews and Josh Bailey scored for the Islanders, and Lehner made 33 saves.
"It was a mistake; I own that one," Lehner said. "Tight game. I think we had chances, I think they had a lot of good chances. It came down to one play."
Carolina took a 1-0 lead at 6:41 of the first period. Teuvo Teravainen played Jaccob Slavin's shot from the left-side boards off his right skate for a tap-in at the right post.
Video: NYI@CAR, Gm3: Teravainen jams puck home from in tight
The Islanders scored a power-play goal to tie it 1-1 at 8:20. Toews used a slap shot with Anders Lee providing a screen.
McElhinney's best save came at 11:17 of the second period, when he was fully outstretched to stop a backhand by Nick Leddy that would have given the Islanders a 2-1 lead.
"It's one of those timely saves you need to come up with at certain points in the game, and tonight it was there for me," McElhinney said.
Justin Faulk gave the Hurricanes a 2-1 lead at 11:58 of the second period. After serving a hooking penalty, he came out of the box, caught Warren Foegele's lofted pass at the offensive blue line, and scored his first goal of the playoffs on a backhand over Lehner's blocker.
Bailey scored on a hard wrist shot from between the circles to make it 2-2 at 14:13 after Aho and Foegele failed to clear the puck.
Video: NYI@CAR, Gm3: Faulk scores after exiting penalty box
Teravainen (with 58 seconds left in the third period) and Aho (with 5 seconds to go) each scored an empty-net goal for the 5-2 final.
"I thought we were good all game. It looked more like our team," Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "We had some mistakes, and [McElhinney] came up big again when he had to. It was great to see him get in there and get [this] win."
After sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Islanders will try to avoid becoming the fourth NHL team to be swept in the second round after winning by sweep in the first round.
"We've just got to come out and win one," Bailey said. "I know it's a cliche, but obviously we have to give ourselves a chance back at home. Just try and win this next one and see what happens."
Video: Clutch Performance: Aho notches a goal, assist in win
They said it
"There are two high-character groups, two groups that value playing both sides of the puck and they get contributions from their whole lineup. I think the DNA is similar in terms of how they win and how we win. We haven't been able to find the extra goal to be on the positive side here." -- Islanders coach Barry Trotz
"It's what [McElhinney] does. Am I extremely proud and giddy for him? Absolutely. I'll show some emotion if he's not. He's going to be pretty stoic and not give you much, but it's awesome for him. We're proud of him. He's such a great team guy and I can't say enough good things about him." -- Hurricanes captain Justin Williams
Need to know
McElhinney is 37 days older than Les Binkley, who made his first NHL playoff start for the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Oakland Golden Seals on April 8, 1970. McElhinney made 17 saves in Game 2 in relief of starter Petr Mrazek, who sustained a lower-body injury in the second period Sunday. ... The Hurricanes have won their first four home games in a postseason for the second time in Carolina/Hartford Whalers history (2002). They defeated the Washington Capitals three times in a seven-game, first-round win. ... The Hurricanes were 0-for-2 on the power play and are 3-for-34 (8.8 percent) in the playoffs. ... The Islanders defeated the Penguins in the 1975 quarterfinals after trailing the series 3-0. ... The Chicago Blackhawks (1970, 1972) and the Buffalo Sabres (1993) were swept in the second round after sweeping in the first.
Game 4 of Eastern Conference Second Round at PNC Arena on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS)
Video: Hurricanes grab 3-0 series lead with 5-2 win