The Carolina Hurricanes jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead, fell behind 4-2 in the second period, then rallied in the third to defeat the New York Islanders last night, 5-4. The victory was the seventh straight win at home for the Canes, the longest home winning streak since the magical 2005-06 season.
Chad LaRose and Matt Cullen each had two goals and Ray Whitney had three assists for the home team.
Cullen got the party started just 44 seconds into the game as Islanders goalie, Peter Mannino, mishandled the puck right alongside of his net. The Hurricanes center took full advantage of the easy chance and it looked like the game might be a runaway. The Canes would score again with just about a minute left in the period when Cullen found linemate Chad LaRose cutting in front of the net. LaRose made a nice move and tucked the puck in the goal to make the score 2-0.
Even though the score was 2-0, the period was not one of the best for the Canes. As coach Paul Maurice indicated after the game, "we weren't in the dressingroom hugging each other after the first period." Perhaps those two goals came too easily?
While the first period might not have been one of their best, the second was arguably one of their worst. The Islanders, the lowest scoring team in the East, had their way with the Hurricanes. Four different players would score, ending with Kyle Okposo tipping in a Mark Streit slap shot on a powerplay with just 1:03 left in the period.
But thankfully for the RBC fans, Erik Cole was not done for the period. On the ensuing play just nine seconds later, he took the puck with a full head of steam toward the Islanders net. It looked like he might have been guided or pushed into Mannino, either way he ended up taking the goalie out of the play. With the free puck sitting in the crease area, Tuomo Ruutu picked up the loose change and made the score 4-3.
Obviously, the goal gave the team a huge lift right before the intermission.
Ray Whitney said that the club was embarrassed after the second period and intended to come out with more purpose in the third. And that is exactly what they did.
The Canes limited the Islanders to just six shots for the entire period and kept attacking until they finally took the lead. At about the 13 minutes mark, Matt Cullen redirected a Rod Brind'Amour pass into the net to tie the score with a powerplay goal. A couple of minutes later, Ray Whitney set up LaRose for the game winner, and the Canes coasted the rest of the way for the two points.
The Hurricanes had a scary moment in the second when Eric Staal banged his head on the goalpost as he was taken down while attacking the net. He lay motionless on the ice for a few moments as the medical staff ran to check on him. After he cleared his head in the locker room for a bit, he was able to return to the game.
Chad LaRose continues to add to his career best and now has 16 goals for the season. If he can move up over the 20 mark, he'll be looking for a huge payday this offseason. His previous career best was 11 last year.
Matt Cullen's two tallies were his 21st and 22nd of the season.
Ray Whitney had three assists putting him back as Carolina's scoring leader with a total of 66 points.
Paul Maurice told reporters that he normally does not speak to the team after a game, but he gathered everyone around and wrote the following on the white board. "Good teams find a way to win". He said that the game was not their best, but having the ability to find a way to win says a lot about them.
The coach also credited the crowd for helping to pump up the team. He mentioned that fans of other teams a bit further to the north would have probably booed their team off the ice after the second. Instead, these fans got on their feet, cheered, and got the team fired up. He said that the fans have been a huge part of the recent winning streak.
Speaking of home fans, there were another 18,000 plus at the RBC last night, making it 10 games in a row that crowds have either surpassed 18K or come very close to it. (there were two nights under, one at 17.7 and another at 17.8)
The win, along with the two points the comes with it, pushed the Hurricanes up into 6th place in the Conference standings. Time will tell how long they can stay there because they are just one point ahead of the Rangers and two ahead of the Habs.
Next up is a huge matchup against the Caps tonight who come in tow with the best player in hockey. Can the Canes make it eight home wins in a row?
Below is a video I took of the post game interview with Chad LaRose.