The Islanders had no answers for Carolina at even-strength, particularly the top line powered by Alexander Semin, left, and Eric Staal, right. - Al Bello
The Hurricanes dominated the home team at even strength and overcame special teams issues to top the Islanders, 6-4, to move into first place in the Southeast Division.
Carolina's top line was unstoppable Monday, piling up nine third-period points to propel the Hurricanes to a 6-4 win on Long Island. Jiri Tlusty had a career-high four points and Jeff Skinner and both Staals extended their point streaks in the team's penultimate road match on a season-long, six-game stint away from PNC Arena.
1. The Hurricanes penalty kill was, plainly put, dreadful. The Islanders went 4 of 5 with the man advantage and it was the only thing that kept them in the game. Carolina sent out 14 different players on the penalty kill, and all but two (Drayson Bowman and Alexander Semin) were on the ice for a New York power play goal, and those two only saw a combined 45 seconds of kill time. If there was one thing to question following Monday's win, it was why a willing — and on his game — penalty killer like Semin wasn't used more: he had just 21 seconds of shorthanded time. But with the Isles game just the first of two games in two nights, coach Kirk Muller got two points and kept all his forwards to less than 20 minutes. Perhaps Semin will get another look on the PK in New Jersey.
2. Giving up quick back-to-back goals plagued the Hurricanes in recent seasons, but this year they seem to be the ones who bounce back after a score. They did it again Monday, with Skinner ripping a shot past Rick DiPietro just 29 seconds after the Isles had made the score 2-1 on John Tavares’ goal at 5:23 of the second period. It set the tone for Carolina’s dominance at even strength and kept the Canes from getting down despite their penalty killing struggles.
3. Whether it's by coincidence or not, Muller is getting a lot out of his guys who return to the ice after time in the press box. Monday it was Jamie McBain and Tim Wallace — who were scratched one and two games ago, respectively — who combined for Carolina’s first goal. Prior to that it was Joe Corvo, who re-entered the lineup against Philadelphia Saturday and finished with a goal and an assist against the Flyers. Andreas Nodl also got a point on Wallace's goal, and he was a very effective as an energy player on the fourth line all night after sitting out the past three games.
Number To Know
853 — Days it has been — by my count — since Carolina has been in first place in the Southeast. With their win Monday, the Hurricanes moved to the top of the division with 13 points in 11 games. The last time Carolina finished a day in first was Oct. 12, 2010, having won both of their games in Finland against Minnesota before being surpassed and never moving back to the top of the division. The Lightning, who are one point back in second and another ahead of third-place Winnipeg, have lost four straight and have struggled on the road. Both Florida and Washington — the two playoff teams from the Southeast last year — have grossly underachieved. Regardless of tonight's outcome in New Jersey, the Canes had a very successful road trip by already taking seven of 10 points.
Alexander Semin — Carolina's $7 Million Man continues to be worth every penny — or nickel, if you're Canadian. You could pick any of the three top liners for this honor — Tlusty led the trio with four points, and Eric Staal was a man possessed all night. But it was Semin who got it done above all others, making the key plays at the key moments — and staying out of the penalty box, which both his linemates didn't avoid — to get the Hurricanes two important points in the standings.
Chad LaRose — LaRose’s role has been minimized — he's not killing penalties and he has struggled to find the scoring magic that pushed him to the cusp of 20 goals a couple times in his career. While it's too early to start talking the offseason, it's worth noting that both Patrick Dwyer and Bowman are younger and cheaper combined than LaRose and have carved out bigger niches under Muller & Co. this season.