Justin Faulk’s first career playoff goal was “gross,” according to Warren Foegele.
Gross, in this case, means good.
“An incredible goal,” Foegele said.
Faulk’s goal, in the second period of the Carolina Hurricanes’ 5-2 win over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night, was equal parts Wayne Gretzky and Odell Beckham Jr.
Faulk’s goal gave the Canes a 2-1 lead at 11:58 in the second period. The Islanders tied it up, about two minutes later, but the Canes scored three times in the third period to take a 3-0 series lead.
The entire sequence of Faulk’s goal came together like a perfect storm. The pass, the catch, staying onside and then the clean shot and goal.
The 27-year-old defenseman, in his eighth season with the Canes, jumped out of the penalty box and was behind New York’s defense. He looked like a receiver running a Hail Mary.
Foegele, the surprising playoff scoring hero, was the quarterback in this scenario. He flipped the pass from the left faceoff circle in front of the Canes’ goal and down the ice to the Islanders’ blueline.
“I just saw him coming out of the box and I just tried to flick it over him,” said Foegele, who leads the team with five playoff goals.
Faulk made the split-second decision to reach up and catch the pass with his right hand, a la Beckham. Actually, Faulk had a different NFL receiver in mind.
“I was a big Randy Moss fan,” Faulk said.
Even New York coach Barry Trotz, who was wondering if Faulk held onto the puck in his hand a beat too long, was impressed with the play.
“He made a great catch,” Trotz said. “If it’s to the letter of the rule, yeah, you close the hand on the puck, you stopped it, you put it down. I think in the game it’s a little bit of a gray area. They made a play. We were yelling from the bench, and they knew the time on the clock, and whoever lofted that puck put it right on the spot.”
Faulk caught the puck, crossed the opposing blueline and then dropped it. With the stick in his left hand, he touched the puck once and then a second time before getting both hands on the stick.
Closing in on Islanders goalie Robin Lehner, Faulk calmly flipped a backhand over Lehner’s right shoulder.
“It was a great play by him to catch it and a really gross goal,” Foegele said.
Faulk, known for his heavy slap shot from the perimeter, looked awfully comfortable making the quick play around the net.
“That was an athletic move,” Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “He’s a very good athlete. That was one of those, you gotta tip your hat.”
Faulk led the Canes with seven shots on Wednesday. He finished with a plus-2 rating in 23 minutes and 36 seconds of ice time. He was just happy to atone for the hooking penalty he took at 9:51 in the second period.
“Everyone’s dream, right? Get a breakaway out of the penalty box when you messed up and took a penalty,” Faulk said.
A dream Faulk had to improvise. The go route and circus catch is not something he has ever practiced.
“It’s hard to replicate that scenario any time,” Faulk said. “I don’t think Roddy is going to allow us too much time in practice on that one.”