With all the momentum on their side, the Carolina Hurricanes will be in no mood to give it back.
The Hurricanes will go for the series sweep of the New York Islanders in Friday night’s Game 4 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.
“That’s what we’ll try to do,” Hurricanes right winger Sebastian Aho said. “It’s going to be a battle.”
The Hurricanes are coming off Wednesday night’s 5-2 victory in Game 3, albeit a deceiving result because the final two goals were empty-net tallies.
Still, the Hurricanes have continued to excel on home ice, where they’re unbeaten in four playoff games.
“It’s a big motivation to be able to close it out,” Carolina defenseman Jaccob Slavin said. “If we can win, that’s great. To be able to sweep here at home would be huge.”
The Islanders never led in Game 3, though they were competitive from the get-go. It has been a series of missed chances for New York.
The Islanders lost for the first time in three road outings in this postseason. They’ll need to claim another road victory in order to return the series to Brooklyn.
“We’ve got to earn the right to keep playing,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “Our backs are against the wall. We got to come with our best effort, and if we don’t, then we won’t earn the right to play.”
The Hurricanes are aware that a big challenge awaits. Friday’s game marks the fifth game in 10 days for Carolina.
When defenseman Justin Faulk came out of the penalty box to score in the second period, he became the sixth Carolina player to register his first career playoff goal this postseason.
It was a rather fortunate sequence for the Hurricanes.
“I thought we had big breaks, too,” Trotz said. “I’m a big believer in that. We earned some opportunities. We’ve got to push harder to get more opportunities and more breaks. … We haven’t been able to find the extra goal to be on the positive side.”
Carolina has scored five goals in three of its playoff home games.
“We’re up 3-0. The last one is the hardest, and it always is,” captain Justin Williams said. “The other team’s backs are against the wall. We certainly don’t want to go back there (to Brooklyn). If we have to, we will. We’re going to work our tails off to hopefully get it done in four.”
Carolina goalie Curtis McElhinney made his first start of this postseason as Petr Mrazek recovers from a lower-body injury sustained in Sunday’s Game 2. At 35 years and 343 days old, McElhinney became the oldest goalie in NHL history to start a playoff game.
“We had some mistakes and our goalie came up huge when he had to,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said of McElhinney’s 28-save performance.
The Hurricanes were energized in several ways, aided by the return from injury of forwards Andrei Svechnikov and Jordan Martinook.
Not only did they get the desired result, the Hurricanes had a good feeling about how it was achieved.
“I thought we were good all game and it looked more like our team throughout the game,” Brind’Amour said. “It’s just a battle that is sticking with your game and trying to create that one little gap.”