Game 2 collapse marked an unfortunate first in NY Islanders playoff history

Apr 22, 2024; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov (40) looks
Apr 22, 2024; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov (40) looks / James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

A three-goal lead is known as the most dangerous lead in hockey, but for the 2023-24 New York Islanders, nearly all leads have felt unsafe. Those feelings were never stronger than last night as the Isles' attempt to survive and steal a game they were thoroughly outplayed in blew up in the final 2:25 minutes. Sebastian Aho tied the game for Carolina at 17:45, and Jordan Martinook scored just nine seconds later as the Carolina Hurricanes pulled off a remarkable, though in many ways predictable, 5-3 comeback win to take a 2-0 series lead as the team head to Long Island for Game 3.

Last night the Isles somehow found themselves up 2-0 after the first period despite not getting a shot-on-goal until the 13:22 mark on goals by Kyle Palmieri and Bo Horvat. They somehow found themselves with a 3-0 lead after Anders Lee scored on the power play in the second. They gave that one back, but at the end of two periods, despite being bombarded by Carolina shots from all angles, narrowly escaped the period with a two-goal lead because of some blocked shots and hit posts.

In the third period, they tried to play prevent defense and run out the clock on the road, which was as terrible a strategy as it sounds, but they had no other answers last night. Their only chance was to keep blocking shots, chipping pucks out of the zone, and banking on clutch saves as they attempted to withstand a barrage of Canes shots, 110 in total by the end of the game.

Those efforts proved futile, and when the comeback was complete, it marked the first time in team playoff history that the Islanders had lost a postseason game after leading by three goals at any point of the game. They had won the previous 81. They are now 81-1.

“We can't just hold on and play in our end for two periods and just hope that we'll find a way,” defenseman Noah Dobson said. “We have to have a push back and obviously we weren't good enough tonight.”

They should've known better and probably did, but there was no turning the tide on this night as Carolina's relentless surge came in wave after wave, finishing the game with 32:57 seconds of zone time, an almost unheard of number for a game that ends before overtime.

It was the type of performance that makes you seriously doubt if there is a path to winning the series when the opponent can first beat you when you play your best game (in Game 1) and then rally from down a three-goal lead (in Game 2). The Islanders pride themselves on being a resilient group. They're being tested in a more profound way in this series as they head back to UBS Arena.