"Here we go again" was the phrase uttered by many Hurricanes fans after they saw their team fall behind early in the first period and were forced to play from behind yet again. Even more grumbles of frustration were unleashed later on that period when the Hurricanes were able to mount an attack but could not get anything past Islanders goaltender Kevin Poulin. Things seemingly reached a season-low in the second period when the Islanders just dominated the Hurricanes, outshooting them 12-1 mid-way through and looking like they were going to coast their way to a shutout win. After last night's collapse against the Tampa Bay Lightning, many Hurricanes fans were hoping for a better showing tonight and that this team would come out with a little more fire than they were showing.
The tides would then shift in Carolina's favor late in the second period when Islanders forward Matt Martin was whistled for an interference call. The Canes would then quickly make the Islanders pay by getting a lucky goal off a faceoff and then follow it up less than a minute later with a goal from Jordan Staal to tie the game. What had happened prior to that was now all but irrelevant as the Canes managed to put themselves in a position to win the game despite playing so poorly for the first 40 minutes. All they had to do was go out and finish the job, something they couldn't do yesterday but did tonight.
Now rejuvenated, the Hurricanes came out very strong in the third period and took control of the game, just as they did against this same Islanders game a couple weeks ago. Their top-two lines were finally clicking and their hard work paid off as a terrific shift from the Jordan Staal line resulted in Bobby Sanguinetti getting the game-winning goal. They would continue to wear down the Islanders and eventually salt away a 4-2 win after Alex Semin added on an empty netter in the dying seconds.
This was a thrilling victory and a much needed morale booster after the last three games, but I'm sure many fans would prefer to see this team show more of a complete effort instead of having to rally from behind like they have so many times this season. The fact that the Canes have been able to battle back and win games like this speaks a lot about their character and determination, but it isn't going to work every night. In the end, a win is a win and the Hurricanes will certainly take whatever they can get this year.
Corey's Ten Thoughts
- Cam Ward has received a lot of criticism (from me especially) the last couple of games and he got off to a rocky start by allowing two early goals, but he was rock solid after that. He was the only reason why the Hurricanes were in a position to pull off a comeback in the second period, as he denied more than a few grade-A scoring chances from the Islanders. Ward ended the night stopping 23 of 25 Islander shots, which is a solid performance and the quality outing the Canes need from their netminder.
- It's funny what a lucky bounce or two can do for a team's confidence. Take Eric Staal's powerplay goal for instance. All he did was bat a puck out of mid-air into the net for a pretty fluky goal, but they all count and the Hurricanes looked like a completely different team after that and were able to add on another less than two minutes later. Things were looking grim and hopeless minutes prior to that and one lucky bounce in the Canes favor changed everything. Hockey is a weird game sometimes.
- Speaking of lucky bounces, it looked like absolutely nothing would be going in the Hurricanes favor during the first period. They didn't play great after allowing the first two Islander goals, but they did generate a pretty solid attack after that and could have easily had at least one goal heading into the first intermission. Jussi Jokinen was denied point-blank by Poulin on once chance and the Hurricanes somehow could not put a loose puck in the net despite there being a mad scramble of bodies in the crease on another. That right here is a perfect example of the bounces not going in your teams favor.
- Bobby Sanguinetti was one of the few players who had a good game against Tampa Bay and he followed it up with probably his strongest game of the year. The coaching staff trusted him with more minutes (season high 21:55) and he made the most of it by playing a very strong game at both ends and scoring his first career goal. Sanguinetti has always been known more for his offensive skill than anything else but he's receiving given more defensive assignments lately due to necessity, so he hasn't been given much of a chance to score as usual. Despite that, he is still jumping into the play quite a bit and has been close to scoring a few times but he's often seen himself on the receiving end of more goals against than anything else this year. This is why it was nice to see him finally get a goal tonight.
- Sanguinetti's goal itself was a pretty one, as he trailed an odd-man rush generated by the Hurricanes and fired home a wrist shot upstairs past Poulin, but the play he made prior to the goal was also impressive. This odd-man rush would not have happened if Sanguientti didn't make a great play with his stick to deny a centering pass by John Tavares. Jordan Staal then swiped the puck away to the corner and Patrick Dwyer led a three-on-two break the other way which became a four-on-two once Sanguinetti joined the rush. The Hurricanes defense isn't going to stay as banged up as it is right now, so Sanguientti is going to have to do something to stay in the lineup as a 5/6 defenseman and making smart plays like this is a great way to do so. Scoring also helps.
- Muller tweaked the lines a bit in the third period to help spark the offense and a change that probably made fans groan in disgust was him placing Chad LaRose on the first line in place of Jiri Tlusty. LaRose might be having a bad season, but he did give this line a much-needed jolt as they were fantastic on the forecheck and were able to constantly pin the Islanders in their own zone in the third period. On paper, LaRose looks out of place on a line with Eric Staal and Alexander Semin but they worked well in action tonight, at leas tin the third period.
- For the first 45 minutes, Jordan Staal's line looked completely neutralized at even strength and couldn't do much of anything in terms of generating offense. This was coming off Jordan's worst game as a Hurricanes, so I'm sure some people were worried that he is hopeless without Jeff Skinner on his wing, then he came alive in the dying seconds of the second period and scored his fourth goal of the season. After that, Staal, Jokinen and Dwyer began to control play whenever they were out there and played a key role in the game-winning goal. Wasn't the best night by their standards but they definitely rose to the occasion when the game was on the line, something the entire team didn't do last night.
- Ryan Murphy saw much less ice-time after playing over 25 minutes the night before. I guess you could have seen this coming since the team was likely preserving Faulk in a back-to-back and Murphy was in a bit over his head against Tampa Bay. Murphy's mistakes are mitigated when he is playing in a less prominent role (especially against the Islanders bottom-six), so I didn't notice many blunders on his part and the only things that stood out to me were his more positive traits. The Canes seem to have less trouble exiting the zone when he was on the ice and was able to get the puck on net a couple times while working the point of the powerplay. This is the kind of role I expected him to play this year if he made the team out of camp.
- As a team, the Canes seem to have much less of a problem gaining the blue-line with control whenever they play the Islanders. Jordan Staal, Alex Semin and Patrick Dwyer didn't have much of a problem when it came to entering the Islanders zone and setting up plays because they always had enough room to enter their territory with possession of the puck. The Canes have been good in this department this season, but they seem to have a much easier time winning the neutral zone battle against the Islanders more than anyone else. This was especially true in the third period and the latter stages of the first.
- Carolina's penalty kill wasn't tested much tonight but they got the job done in killing off all three Islander powerplays. Their best moment came in the middle of the second period, as they constantly challenged the Islanders in the neutral zone and did not allow them to get the puck deep at all. The Islanders refusing to dump the puck in kind of helped matters, but the Hurricanes still executed their gameplan on the PK by preventing the Islanders from getting in their zone. The only thing close to a scoring chance I can remember them giving up was a one-timer that was fanned on Keith Aucoin. They probably wouldn't have been so lucky if it wasn't Aucoin taking that shot, though.
It took a couple bounces for the Hurricanes to right the ship tonight but they did get the win and have ended a tough three game losing streak. Not only that, but they are also tied for first in the Southeast division since the Tampa Bay Lightning lost their game tonight, which essentially means that we're right back to where we were 48 hours ago. The ball is still in Carolina's court as far as the division and playoff hunt goes, but they'll need to play better than they did tonight if they want to make a serious run. Games like this might become the norm with the roster in the shape it is now so the most the Hurricanes can do right now is wait for the regulars to get healthy and get by with what they have now. It resulted in a win tonight, let's see how they do in the upcoming week with Washington and Pittsburgh on tap.