Game Analysis: Back To Back Vs. Lightning; At Islanders

Cam Ward and Bobby Sanguinetti helped lead Carolina to a 4-2 win vs. the Islanders Sunday on Long Island. - Bruce Bennett

The Hurricanes rebounded from a dismal performance at home against Tampa Bay to rally for a win on Long Island and reclaim top spot in the Southeast Division

For the first five periods this weekend, the Carolina Hurricanes looked like a shell of the team that had dominated on the road just a couple weeks earlier. In a way, they were a shell — five regulars were out with injuries, including three of the team’s top seven defensemen. But after a disjointed loss at home to Tampa Bay Saturday, the Canes found their groove late in the second period on Long Island. The Staal brothers scored in succession to erase a two-goal deficit, then Carolina stole two points with a goal and an empty-netter in the third. Here's a closer look at this weekend’s games.

Three Observations

1. Eric Staal desperately needed to score Sunday, and he did. His performance Saturday was arguably one of the most disappointing of his career. He was beat back on an icing call simply due to lack of effort, and his body language and demeanor were not befitting an NHL captain. The frustration is understandable — Staal always sees the opposition’s best, but when the defense is depleted and the team has morphed into a one-line team, the burden shifts even heavier onto No. 12. His baseball bat goal at 18:28 of the second against the Islanders not only shook him out of his funk, but ignited the team and led to a win. Staal still has a lot to learn about being a team leader, but he took a step in the right direction Sunday after taking two steps back the night before.

2. It looked like Cam Ward was going to have another rough night Sunday, allowing two first-period goals to put the Hurricanes in an early hole. But Ward was at his best the rest of the way, making 14 in the second period when his teammates could barely generate a shot at the other end. His teammates rewarded him with four unanswered goals and a 4-2 win.

3. Coach Kirk Muller’s decision to move Chad LaRose to the top line was curious, especially since it meant sliding down red-hot Jiri Tlusty off the top line. But whatever Muller said or did, it worked. The Hurricanes’ lines were all over the place in the second half of Sunday’s game, giving LaRose and Tlusty time with Eric Staal and Alexander Semin (a sneaky three points in the game) while the other lines saw several different looks. In the end, it meant a win — and another feather in Muller’s coaching cap.

Number To Know

42, 187 — The combined number of years and days old Ryan Murphy and Michal Jordan were Sunday when they were paired together against the Islanders. That's 49 days younger than Teemu Selanne, the NHL's current oldest player.

Plus

Bobby Sanguinetti — It took Sanguinetti 20 games to get his first NHL point, an assist late Saturday when the loss to Tampa Bay was all but assured. His first NHL goal, however, held a little more significance. Sanguinetti jumped in the rush halfway through the third period and deposited a Patrick Dwyer feed past Isles goalie Kevin Poulin for the game-winning goal. He is now plus-1 each of the last three games, and the 16:40 and 21:55 he played Saturday and Sunday, respectively, are his two career highs in ice time. With Carolina’s D corps riddled by injuries and inconsistencies, Sanguinetti added some much-needed offense from the back end while holding his own defensively.

Minus

Jussi Jokinen — Moving Jokinen back to wing — where he's more comfortable — in Jeff Skinner's absence hasn't seemed to help the Finn. He's had more chances, but it's clear he's still struggling around the net and hasn't been able to finish. He ranks eighth on the team in total minutes this season (267:05), but has just four points (one point per 66:46 played).

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