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Andersen, Noesen Help Hurricanes Past Islanders 3-1 to Open NHL First Round Playoff Series

Nothing came easy for the Carolina Hurricanes entering the NHL playoffs.

Stefan Noesen scored the go-ahead goal early in the third, while Frederik Andersen had a big night in net to help the Hurricanes get past the New York Islanders 3-1 on Saturday to open their first-round series.

Andersen had 34 saves, including a huge save from mainly his side when he was in the crease early in the third period. And he withstood constant pressure from the Islanders as they carried on their late-season surge to clinch a playoff berth and finish with a nine-shot lead, spending much of the first two periods spent the action.

“You don’t want to be a team that depends on your goalkeeper, but Freddie has always been there for us and made the big save when we needed it,” defenseman Brady Skjei said. There are few better jobs to help him.”

Noesen scored the winner when he grabbed a loose puck at the top of the crease and pushed it past Semyon Varlamov at 3:44 of the third period, while Martin Necas added an empty-net clincher that fired in from beyond the blue line with 1:32 go to.

Game 2 of the best-of-7 first-round series is Monday night.

Rookie Kyle MacLean scored for the Islanders in the first period, pushing a loose puck over the line after an Andersen stop in a battle to tie the score. Varlamov finished with 23 saves, but the Islanders couldn’t capitalize on the few openings Andersen had left at the other end.

The wildest came after Andersen slipped on teammate Brett Pesce’s skate and fell into the crease just as Noah Dobson tapped the right post wide. The puck slid back to Dobson, who skated onto the prone Andersen – only to see the netminder knock the puck down the ice.

Andersen said he was just “trying to figure something out, get close to the puck and get something on it.”

It was a moment that also stood out to Islanders coach Patrick Roy.

“Encouraged because I thought we played a really solid game,” Roy said. “We did a lot of good things, it was a hard-fought game, but we had our chances. And frustrated because we had our chances.”

The Islanders are in the playoffs for the fifth time in six years, although it wasn’t an easy battle to get back. Their up-and-down season included a coaching change in January (the firing of Lane Lambert) and a six-game skid only in mid-March.

But New York won eight of its last nine and clinched a playoff spot on Monday.

The Hurricanes are in the playoffs for the sixth straight year and are the favorite to win the Stanley Cup according to Bet MGM Sportsbook, buoyed by a largely healthy roster compared to missing crucial pieces in each of the past two seasons and the trade deadline acquisitions in Jake Guentzel and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Kuznetsov also scored for Carolina, converting a power play just 95 seconds into his postseason debut with the franchise — a moment he marked with his bird-like, arm-waving celebration. Yet the man who played a key role in Washington’s run to the Stanley Cup in 2018 called Carolina’s first 40 minutes “unacceptable.”

“A lot of things went wrong,” Kuznetsov said. “They were better than us, I felt like they competed better in some areas. but that’s why we have a pretty good team and we regroup after 40 minutes. We knew what we needed to fix and we did it.”

The Islanders played without center Jean-Gabriel Pageau after he was ruled out of the regular-season finale against Pittsburgh on Wednesday due to a lower-body injury, leading to MacLean’s elevation to the third line. The Hurricanes were missing forward Jesper Fast, who suffered a neck injury that left him out of Carolina’s final against Columbus.

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