The Hurricanes’ first-round playoff series win over the Islanders set a new standard

So here’s where you stop taking it one day, one game at a time, where that old fallback cliche goes to die.

Once the handshakes were complete, another first-round series won, the New York Rangers were already looming overhead like a storm cloud. Peter Laviolette. Igor Shesterkin. Vincent Trocheck, the Breadman and that power play. And starting on the road, for the first time since 2019.

In this moment between series, though, it’s worth appreciating that no matter how far the Carolina Hurricanes go, whenever and wherever their season ends, they have done something at the beginning no one has done in more than 20 years.

Carolina Hurricanes center <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Jack Drury;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Jack Drury</a> (18) skates to the bench after scoring the game winning goal in the third period against the <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:New York Islanders;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">New York Islanders</a> in Game 5 of the NHL Eastern Conference quarterfinals on Tuesday, April 30, 2024 at PNC Arena, in Raleigh N.C. The Hurricanes clinched the series 4-1. Robert Willett/

Their five-game win over the New York Islanders, completed Tuesday night in wild 6-3 fashion, right down to the crazy bounce that brought back memories of Poor Ty Conklin, gave the Hurricanes an opening-round win in six straight seasons — every single season since Rod Brind’Amour took over.

The Washington Capitals in seven in 2019. The Rangers in three in the preliminary round in the Toronto bubble in 2020. The Nashville Predators in six in 2021. The Boston Bruins in seven in 2022. The Islanders in six in 2023. The Islanders in five in 2024.

Even Brind’Amour seemed to have a hard time putting that run in proper perspective.

“It’s something to look back on, maybe, in the future, and say, ‘Oh, that’s pretty good,’” Brind’Amour said. “We’re in it right now. It means nothing. It’s hard because the expectation here is, we’re not done. But it’s hard to win a playoff round. And sometimes you forget that.”

The last team to pull this off was the Detroit Red Wings from 1995-2000, a juggernaut that won two Stanley Cups and played for another, albeit with a stratospheric payroll in the pre-cap era. And not coming off a decade-long playoff drought like the Hurricanes, either.

The Hurricanes haven’t had the same ultimate success, getting swept in their two trips to the conference finals, but they have done it under much more difficult conditions, a bigger league with “cost certainty,” pinned up against the salary cap and shedding players along the way, going from upstart to contender.

The point being, while they haven’t yet reached the same heights as those Red Wings — whose lingering core, of note locally, won another Stanley Cup in 2002 — winning a playoff round, any playoff round, is hard. Nothing is given. Nothing is certain. Nothing is preordained. Nothing is assumed. The list of would-be champions and President’s Trophy winners that crashed and burned at the first hurdle is a long one.

And this series was hard. The Hurricanes may have avoided a return trip to Long Island, but it took everything they had. The Islanders never made it easy, and certainly didn’t in Game 5, right down to Pierre Engvall’s late slash on Tony DeAngelo’s right wrist that sent him for X-rays after the game.

Carolina Hurricanes left wing <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Andrei Svechnikov;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Andrei Svechnikov</a> (37) is surrounded by teammates after scoring against New York Islander goalie <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Semyon Varlamov;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Semyon Varlamov</a> (40) in the first period during Game 5 of the NHL Eastern Conference quarterfinals agains the New York Islanders on Tuesday, April 30, 2024 at PNC Arena, in Raleigh N.C. Robert Willett/

This game, and this series, looked wrapped up after the Hurricanes jumped out to a 3-1 lead — Andrei Svechnikov finally got his utterly deserved goal — capped by a trademark slow-burn, dust-it-off Evgeny Kuznetsov penalty shot goal, the second in franchise playoff history.

But the lead was gone by the second intermission, the building stunned into near-silence, and the Hurricanes had to start all over in the third. Which they did.

Jack Drury, promoted into the second-line center spot, finally scored a goal the opposition couldn’t challenge. Eight seconds later, Stefan Noesen was the beneficiary of an odd bounce off the boards and an open net — the second time in the series the Hurricanes scored two goals in less time than it took Kuznetsov to get from the red line to the net on his penalty shot.

Noesen scores all his goals from within 5 feet of the net, but not usually like this.

“Still in the blue paint,” Noesen said.

The Hurricanes wavered throughout the series, and there’s no question they’ll have to play better from start to finish to beat the Rangers, but with the exception of the two overtimes at the end of Game 4, they also found what they needed when they needed it Because they’ve been here before. And they know what it takes.

“The last six years, and I’ve been here for five, that experience you rely on,” said Hurricanes defenseman Brady Skjei, a two-way force in Game 5. “There’s not too much panic on the bench. We feel confident. Those years have really prepared us for this year.”

They’re moving on. Again.

Carolina Hurricanes center <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Jesperi Kotkaniemi;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Jesperi Kotkaniemi</a> (82) congratulates goalie Frederik Anderson (31)following their 6-3 victory over the New York Islanders in Game 5 of the NHL Eastern Conference quarterfinals on Tuesday, April 30, 2024 at PNC Arena in Raleigh N.C. Robert Willett/

This team will be judged by what happens next, and perhaps next, and perhaps after that. But it should also be judged on the standard that’s been set — and met — again.

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