Hurricanes top Islanders to take commanding 3-0 series lead

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The Carolina Hurricanes were probably a little fortunate to win the first two games of their Round 2 series against the New York Islanders, and they knew it, too.

And honestly, there is nothing wrong with that. To win a Stanley Cup you need to steal a couple of wins along the way when you are not at your best, and to hear captain Justin Williams talk on Wednesday before the game they all knew they needed to be better in Game 3.

They were, and it was Williams once again scoring a big postseason goal to help lift them to victory.

The Hurricanes were clearly the better team in their 5-2 win to take a commanding 3-0 series lead, pushing the Islanders to the bring of elimination.

Williams scored the game-winner midway through the third period, finishing a great play that started with Sebastian Aho knocking Robin Lehner‘s clearing attempt out of mid-air behind the net.

It was one of a handful of highlight reel plays the Hurricanes made on the net and can be seen in the video above.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The craziest sequence came midway through the second period when Curtis McElhinney, making his first playoff start at the age of 35, made an incredible toe save on the penalty kill to rob Jordan Eberle of what looked to be a sure goal. Just a few moments later, Justin Faulk came out of the penalty box, caught a lob-pass at the blue line, quickly dropped it to the ice, and beat Lehner on a slick move to give the Hurricanes a 2-1 lead.

The Islanders quickly responded with a Joshua Bailey goal to tie the score, but they were never able to get the go-ahead goal and were unable to generate any sustained zone time against a Hurricanes’ defense that played its best game of the series and one of its best games of the playoffs.

This performance came after Williams pretty much challenged his team to be better than they had been earlier in the day.

“I think I take the fact that we grinded out two wins, which is great,” said Williams, via Sportsnet’s Eric Engels. “I also take out the fact that I’m a realist and we haven’t played very well. I think that is pretty relevant, and tonight we need to show the Islanders what we’re all about. This is a big game for us. A statement game. A game where we can obviously not put them away but get pretty darned close to the goal that we want. So, in front of our home crowd, we’re going to be ready to go and we’re going to show them what Carolina hockey is tonight.”

They did all of that on Wednesday.

McElhinney, who got the win in Game 2 in relief of an injured Petr Mrazek, stopped 28 of the 30 shots he faced to record his second consecutive win.

Teuvo Teravainen scored two goals by starting the scoring in the first period and then adding one of the Hurricanes’ two empty-net goals in the final minute of regulation.

Aho finished with a goal and an assist.

After eliminating the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals in Round 1, the Hurricanes are now one win from taking their stunning postseason run to the Eastern Conference Final.

The Islanders, after sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 1, are one loss away suffering the same fate if they can not get a win on Friday night.

Game 4 of Hurricanes-Islanders is Friday at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.