Weary Hurricanes ask Petr Mrazek to win one for them and he does

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Hurricanes down Islanders in OT in game 1 of playoff series

Check out photos from as the Carollina Hurricanes face the NY Islanders in game one of their second round NHL playoff series.

Check out photos from as the Carollina Hurricanes face the NY Islanders in game one of their second round NHL playoff series.

Hard to believe you could have had either of these guys in July for a handshake and half a box of Jujyfruits. Wherever the NHL’s goalie scrapheap is, these guys were forwarding their mail there. They were lottery tickets for teams with few options and less money.

Robin Lehner had washed out with the Buffalo Sabres. Neither the Detroit Red Wings nor the Philadelphia Flyers wanted Petr Mrazek around. Who foresaw them battling it out on a Friday night in late April, throwing goosies at each other for more than 60 minutes?

Probably the same people who foresaw the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes playing for a spot in the Eastern Conference finals. Which is to say, no one. And yet here they were, first one to blink loses in overtime.

Lehner, sober and successfully treated for his bipolar disorder, put together a Vezina Trophy-worthy season with a fresh start on Long Island. Mrazek, with everything to prove and nothing to lose, took over the No. 1 job for the Hurricanes late in the season and hasn’t let go yet. They’re both on one-year deals, printing money in the postseason having resurrected careers – and in Lehner’s case, a life – gone sideways.

So when Friday came down to a question of which one would crack first, neither would budge in regulation. Jordan Staal finally broke through four minutes into overtime, banking a bad-angle shot off Lehner’s toe for a 1-0 win in Game 1 and giving Mrazek an extra-duty shutout.

The Hurricanes relied heavily on Mrazek in the seven-game first-round win over the Washington Capitals, and win or lose, he kept them in several games with big third periods and overtimes, holding leads or giving the Hurricanes a chance to come from behind.

They hadn’t yet asked him to go out and win a game for them, on a night they were maybe a step behind, a day short of fully rested, a mere 43 hours removed from an emotional, double-overtime Game 7 win. Not until Friday, when they put everything on Mrazek’s shoulders, uncharacteristically turning the puck over for a series of odd-man rushes, including a flashy glove save on a Josh Bailey breakaway.

Lehner had less work, but was no less impeccable, flashing out his left pad to deny Greg McKegg on a breakaway of his own. It was an old-fashioned goaltending duel, of the kind seem more often two decades ago – back when Nassau Coliseum was the Islanders’ only home.

When the Hurricanes arrived at Barclays Center on Friday, arena workers were still applying playoff decals to the outside of the building, having apparently spent the past 10 days since the Islanders advanced and departed Nassau Coliseum polishing the Jay Z statue or something.

The old barn helped propel the Islanders to their sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins, but they are contractually obligated to play the remaining rounds here, in this building better suited for ACC basketball than NHL hockey, not the first time a short-term Brooklyn sublet has turned out to be a long-term residence.

Someday, the Islanders will have a permanent home of their own. Until then, they’ll live this split existence between their spiritual home and this urban pied-a-terre – which is fine with the Hurricanes, who have set up camp in Manhattan and didn’t actually leave the hotel until Friday afternoon.

The road-weary and playoff-battered Hurricanes may not leave the hotel Saturday, and after playing Friday without Andrei Svechnikov and Jordan Martinook have no guarantee they’ll have either back Sunday afternoon.

They’ll need them, and not just to make up the numbers. The Hurricanes could have used Svechnikov’s finishing edge against Lehner and Martinook’s physical edge against the Islanders, whose freshness showed in their willingness to take the body.

There’s not a lot of time until Game 2. After all this extra hockey, Mrazek’s probably going to have to be this good again.

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