Aho, Martinook cap Hurricanes’ late rally to beat the Islanders for a 2-0 playoff series lead

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Hurricanes were down big at home in the NHL playoffs, playing desperate hockey full of withering long shifts in the offensive zone as they tried to rally.

They fought back long enough to give themselves a chance — then Sebastian Aho and Jordan Martinook pounced to complete an improbable comeback that will linger in franchise lore.

Aho scored the tying goal late in the third period, followed by Martinook with the winner 9 seconds later as the Hurricanes beat the New York Islanders 5-3 on Monday night, turning a three-goal deficit into a 2-0 lead in their first-round playoff series in unlikely fashion.

“It was a special night for sure,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “It’s one of those games that we’ll probably look back on for a long time.”

Aho struck first by redirecting Andrei Svechnikov’s shot at the right post behind Semyon Varlamov with 2:15 remaining to tie the game at 3. After an Islanders giveaway on the ensuing faceoff, Martinook raced down to beat Noah Dobson to the puck along the boards and then pushed it toward the same post with a wraparound attempt from behind the net.

The puck banged off Varlamov’s left skate and slipped into the net for the 4-3 lead with 2:06 to go, sending the Hurricanes players mobbing a jumping Martinook amid a roof-blowing roar from a shocked home crowd.

“Just the momentum of us tying the game, and the energy that it sends — I don’t really know how to describe it, you get a whole juice that just hits you,” Martinook said of his puck-chasing charge.

The Islanders could only lament one that got away, even amid Carolina’s long-running surge taking momentum.

“Just 30 seconds, not even, you’d like to have back,” Islanders forward Brock Nelson said.

Teuvo Teravainen and Seth Jarvis each scored to help push Carolina back in contention, then Jake Guentzel added an empty-net score in the final minute to seal the win. This one ended with frustrations flaring for the Islanders, several scrums between the teams and multiple players taking early trips to the locker room.

The series shifts north for the next two games, with Game 3 set for Thursday night.

The Hurricanes won 3-1 in Saturday’s series opener, pushing ahead for good in a tough third-period push. This time, once they started their comeback climb, they relentlessly kept coming on the forecheck and at Varlamov, even having Aho and Jarvis ring the posts late in the second and then Guentzel in the third.

They never stopped, either.

“I think the last probably eight minutes of the second period, we were in their zone and it felt like we were starting to take the game over,” Martinook said. “Then in the third period, you ride that momentum that you built in the second and just try to keep it going.

“I felt in the third, it was just wave after wave. We were coming at them, and we didn’t give them anything, which is key.”

Indeed, the Islanders had more misconduct penalties in the final 56 seconds (six) than shots on goal in the entire third period (one).

That was part of a brutal finish for the Islanders, who used goals from Kyle Palmieri, Bo Horvat and Anders Lee — the last being a forehand-to-backhand finish atop the crease on the power play — to take a 3-0 lead early in the second period. And that had them poised to earn a split after the Game 1 loss that still left Islanders coach Patrick Roy encouraged by his team’s play.

Instead, New York unraveled in crushing fashion, starting with Varlamov taking a tripping penalty on Stefan Noesen to put Carolina on a power play. Teravainen converted on the man advantage by finishing a feed from Guentzel at 13:01 of the second, breathing life back into a stunned-silent arena.

Jarvis buried a cross-ice feed from Jordan Staal to bring Carolina to within 3-2 at 10:43 of the third and set up the Aho-Martinook game-changing sequence.

“Obviously they took charge of the game with the penalties and then they took advantage of their power play to score that one goal,” Roy said, “And then they got some momentum.”

The Hurricanes finished with a 39-12 shot advantage, with Varlamov facing 16 in the final period alone before finishing with 34 saves. New York also had a goal waived off when Kyle McLean’s Jarvis-answering redirect past Andersen came with his stick high in the air.

Andersen finished with nine saves for Carolina, which lost veteran defenseman Brett Pesce to a lower-body injury in the second period.

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AP NHL playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

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