Lehner, Mrazek put on Game 1 show as single bounce is the difference

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BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Game 1 between the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders quickly developed into a night where a single shot was going to make all the difference. Fortunately for the Hurricanes, their goaltender kept all the shots he faced from going into his net.

Robin Lehner and Petr Mrazek put on a show Friday night at Barclays Center during the Hurricanes’ 1-0 overtime victory. Each goaltender finished with 31 saves and showed early on it was going to be a very tight, low-scoring affair.

Mrzaek got everything started off when Josh Bailey broke in on a breakaway. Bailey, the overtime hero in Game 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 1, couldn’t beat Mrazek with a backhand attempt:

“[Mrazek’] been great,” said Hurricanes defenseman Calvin de Haan. “The grade A’s that we are giving up, he’s usually making the first stop and that’s all you can ask of your goalie, and we’ve just got to try to clear rebounds.”

Lehner put himself on the highlight-reel with a big pad stop to deny Gregg McKegg a golden opportunity:

Much like their teams, no one expected Lehner and Mrazek to do what they did during the regular season and be the focal points of why they’re still playing into Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Lehner and Mrazek both entered the 2018-19 NHL season at important points in their careers and separately grabbed control the No. 1 jobs on their respective teams. Mrazek finished top 10 in even strength save percentage (.931), three spots below Lehner (.935), who’s season was impressive enough to make him a Vezina Trophy finalist. 

They will be richly rewarded for their play this summer as both are eligible for unrestricted free agency.

“Robin’s consistently our best player,” said Islanders forward Matt Martin. “He’s solid in there, he’s composed, he makes big saves when we need them. … Robin’s the backbone of our team, there’s no question about that. He’s outstanding every time he’s in there.”

“He’s been great all year and now in the playoffs he’s coming up huge,” said Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour of his goaltender.

Lehner and Mrazek entered Friday’s Game 1 coming off quite different amounts of rest. Lehner had just experienced 10 days of rest after sweeping the Penguins in Round 1. Mrazek had to quickly shift from an emotional seven-game series that ended in double overtime Wednesday night to the opening game of Round 2, which was Carolina’s third game of the postseason requiring more than 60 minutes to determine a winner.

Time and time again Mrazek, who can now boast that five of his career playoff wins have come via shutout, was there to make a big stop as the Islanders kept managing to get to the dangerous areas in front of his net for opportunities. The one goal the Hurricanes did allow was quickly waved off for goaltender interference. By traditional scoring methods, the 27-year-old Czech native answered the call every time when needed, frustrating the Islanders and showing that this could be a very long, very tight series.

“That’s what your goaltender is for,” said Hurricanes forward Jordan Staal, who netted the overtime winner. “[Mrazek’s] a gamer. He can find ways to make those big saves at the right time and that’s what you want in your goaltender.”

Game 2 of Hurricanes-Islanders is Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on NBC (Live stream).

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.