Hurricanes overcome injuries to reach 2nd round of playoffs
NEW YORK (AP) — The Carolina Hurricanes are making a habit of winning at least one postseason series. This time they did it while missing some key players.
Paul Stastny scored six minutes into overtime Friday night and the Hurricanes beat the New York Islanders 2-1 in Game 6 to move on to the second round for the third straight year and fourth in the last five.
In that stretch, they won a preliminary round series in the 2020 playoff bubble before losing in the first round. It made Rod Brind'Amour the third head coach in NHL history to get a playoff series win in each of his first five seasons.
For Brind'Amour, the latest series win was made even more impressive with the Hurricanes playing without injured stars Max Pacioretty, Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen.
“It was tough, it was definitely a grind, there’s no doubt about that,” the coach said. “Give the guys a lot of credit, especially with what we’re missing. It’s hard to believe we’re missing three All-Star players in my opinion. We’re still finding a way to do it. That says a lot about what’s left in there.”
In their absence, Sebastian Aho had four goals and three assists — including the tying score in the third period of Game 6. Stastny scored three times, and Stefan Noesen, Seth Jarvis and Jesper Fast each had two.
The Hurricanes had two overtime wins and limited the Islanders to 15 goals in the series — including a five-goal outburst in New York's win in Game 3. Antti Raanta started the first five games and had a 2.59 goals-against average and .906 save percentage. Frederik Andersen returned for the first time since April 13 to start Game 6 and stopped 33 shots in the series-clinching win.
Carolina also went 17 for 18 (94%) on the penalty-kill, for the highest percentage in a playoff series in franchise history.
“If you look at the games we won, whether goaltending stole a game for us, our top line scored, our second line scored, our checking line shut them down, we’ve been like that all year," Stastny said. “We’ve had different guys step up different times. Obviously Aho has been our top guy and we lean on him. (Jordan Staal) and his line is unbelievable, whether they’re on the scoresheet or not, they did a good job of shutting down their top line.”
Now the Hurricanes get some rest while awaiting their next opponent, the winner of the series between the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils. The Devils lead 3-2 heading into Game 6 on Saturday night.
While the Hurricanes have advanced in the postseason the previous four years, they haven't moved past the second round since reaching the conference finals in 2019, when they beat Washington and the Islanders in the first two rounds.
“It’s a big win for me because just how we did it and what we had to fight through to get it done,” Brind’Amour said. “No one's going to remember it if we don’t continue on and we know that. But we have to take time to enjoy it.”
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Vin A. Cherwoo, The Associated Press