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Isles' third straight playoff appearance

4/2/2004

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Nobody can say the New York Islanders
backed into the playoffs this year.

Mariusz Czerkawski and Adrian Aucoin each scored twice to help
the Islanders clinch their third straight playoff appearance with a
6-4 victory Friday night over the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Islanders slumped toward the end of last season, and
clinched eighth place when the New York Rangers fell apart even
worse down the stretch. The Islanders' struggles led to the firing
of coach Peter Laviolette, now the Hurricanes' coach, after their
first-round playoff exit.

"I'm happy, but more important I'm happy for the 24 guys in
that room," said Steve Stirling, who replaced Laviolette last
spring. "They didn't need to hear from anybody that they backed
in, or didn't get in. They needed to win their way in and they
did."

The Islanders ran up a 6-1 lead going into the third, and the
hapless Hurricanes contributed bad play and bad luck, with a
potential tying goal waved off, a fruitless penalty shot and four
failed efforts by the NHL's worst power play.

"We just didn't execute," Laviolette said. "We didn't keep
them contained, we got beat on the walls, we turned pucks over.
Basically we got what we deserved."

New York secured the final postseason berth in the Eastern
Conference, eliminating Buffalo from the race. The Islanders are
only one point behind Montreal for seventh place, with each team
having one game remaining.

"We wanted to do it on our own -- not waiting for anybody else
to do it. We wanted to control the game to the end," Czerkawski
said.

The Islanders qualified for the playoffs in three straight years
for the first time since a 14-year run from 1975-88. They were
helped when Carolina had a goal waved off that would've tied it at
2.

New York quickly responded with four straight goals within a
span of 7:27 to blow the game open.

"That was tough. That would have maybe changed the momentum. It
went in their favor and they just jumped on it from there,"
Laviolette said.

Carolina enforcer Jesse Boulerice had two goals, but the
Hurricanes were 0-for-4 on the power play and managed only one shot
during a two-man advantage in the second period.

Rod Brind'Amour and Eric Staal scored in the third to bring
Carolina within 6-4.

The Hurricanes thought they'd gotten even at 2 early in the
second period, but the officials said the whistle blew before Josef
Vasicek's shot went in.

"It was definitely the turning point in the game. We were right
there with them at that point," Boulerice said. "They got a
couple of quick ones and that took the wind out of our sails."

Carolina goalie Kevin Weekes was pulled after giving up five
goals on 17 shots. Eric Cole fired wide on a penalty shot with 5:46
left.

The Islanders opened the scoring on the power play 11:57 in.
Oleg Kvasha drew Weekes to the right side of the net, then Alexei
Yashin passed through traffic to Czerkawski on the open left side
to make it 1-0.

Aucoin made it 2-0 just a minute later, intercepting a bad
Hurricanes pass near center ice and scoring off his rebound.

Carolina got on the board at 14:19 of the first as Boulerice
scored against Rick DiPietro from just above the crease.

The Islanders put the game out of reach in the second.
Czerkawski's second goal made it 3-1 two minutes in. Yashin and
Trent Hunter added goals 44 seconds apart to send Weekes to the
bench in favor of Arturs Irbe. Aucoin's second goal made it 6-1 at
14:12.

Boulerice made it 6-2 six minutes into the third, bouncing the
puck off the shin of Islanders defenseman Eric Cairns and past
DiPietro.

Cole's penalty shot could've pulled the Hurricanes within 6-4.

Game notes
Carolina, which didn't qualify for the playoffs, were
without forward Jaroslav Svoboda, who injured his torso earlier in
the week. ... The Islanders have won eight of 11. They lost at home
to Carolina last weekend. ... Carolina is 0-for-30 with the man
advantage since Sean Hill scored against Pittsburgh on March 19.
... Islanders forward Mark Parrish, who missed 23 games earlier
this season with an ankle sprain, had his four-game goal streak
snapped. He has scored in seven of New York's last nine games.