The home team was beating up on the Carolina Hurricanes and the home crowd loving it, and loudly so.
That’s the way it was when the New York Islanders won Game 3 against the Hurricanes, taking a 5-1 win in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series at the Isles’ UBS Arena.
The Canes’ response to that beating? Leaning on their leadership and playoff experience, they took a decisive 5-2 win in Game 4 for a 3-1 lead in the series and later ended it in six games with another road win.
The Canes will be looking for a similar bounceback Tuesday after their 8-4 loss Sunday to the New Jersey Devils in Game 3 of their series at the Prudential Center. It’s a loss. It happens. It happens in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour didn’t like the looks of it, using the word “horrible” and later adding, “We were no good. I don’t know what else to tell you. I’ve never seen us play like that.”
But as the Hurricanes have learned the past five years in the playoffs, it’s one loss. Their problem: The Devils scored eight goals — four each against goalies Frederik Andersen and Pyotr Kochetkov — and looked a lot more dynamic at times with the puck than the Islanders, who do not have anyone like New Jersey’s Jack Hughes.
But, again, one loss.
“We’ll take the positives that we have from it, shed it and move on,” said forward Stefan Noesen, who provided one of the positives by dropping the gloves and pounding the Devils’ Erik Haula in a one-sided fight.
The Canes did score shorthanded three times, one on a penalty shot by Jordan Martinook. It’s hard to lose a game after all that, but the Hurricanes did — the “shorties” by Jordan Staal and Seth Jarvis coming after the Devils took a 7-2 lead.
“It starts with battles and I thought we were a little bit on the edge of our stick, trying poke plays instead of getting over pucks,” Noesen said. “They got some bounces that went their way but when you work that hard that’s kind of what happens. And we were on the other end of it.”
The Devils were on the “other end of it” the first two games, losing 5-1 and then 6-1 at PNC Arena. The Canes won most of the 50/50 board battles, stayed on the forecheck and didn’t give the Devils much breathing room in keeping with their “give them nothing” playoff mantra.
But the Devils showed more grit, won a lot more 50/50’s, found more open ice in Game 3 and made the most of it, much to the delight of a packed house at “The Rock.” New Jersey had 14 players find the scoresheet, led by Jack Hughes’ two goals and two assists.
“They’re a team that is ready and willing to take off and stretch you out, and I don’t think we were quite ready for that.” Staal said.
Hughes’ younger brother, Luke, had two assists in his first Stanley Cup playoff game and had the fans bellowing “L-uuuuuke” each time. Luke Hughes, 19, was one of seven defensemen the Devils had in the lineup.
“They were on it. They were dialed in,” Brind’Amour said. “They took it to us.”
Michael McLeod had a shorthanded goal and Ondrej Palat a power-play goal after the Devils had 5-on-3 advantage following an interference call against the Canes’ Jaccob Slavin that left Brind’Amour steaming. The Canes killed off the first penalty — a slashing call on Brent Burns — but Palat scored a few seconds later.
Andersen, so sharp in winning the past three playoff games, gave up four goals on 12 shots Sunday before his early departure. With goalie Antti Raanta slowed by an illness, Andersen might have to go back in net again in Game 4, Kochetkov having his own problems Sunday.
The Hurricanes will need to do a better job of controlling the pace, of managing the puck, of keeping their focus and maintaining the intensity level they have shown. Do that, Staal said, and the Canes can “tip the scale.”
“To a man we needed a little bit more,” Martinook said. “When it’s a little bit off, it can look like that. To a man, everybody in here knows that we can be a lot better and that’s a good thing. We’ve shown it.
““It doesn’t matter if you lose 2-1 or the way we lost. It’s a loss and we’ve got to regroup. We’ll look in the mirror and we’ll come back on Tuesday and get back to what we do.”