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Four-goal second period carries Hurricanes

The SportsXchange

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Carolina Hurricanes are learning the best offense is generated by a good defense.

Jiri Tlusty, Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner scored in a 13-minute span in the second period on Saturday night and the Hurricanes survived a late rally by the New York Islanders to hang on for a 4-3 win at Nassau Coliseum.

The four goals were a season high for the Hurricanes, who scored three goals in a period for the second straight game. Carolina scored three times in the third period of a 3-2 win over Toronto on Thursday.

Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said such back-to-back offensive outbursts are a reward for the work Carolina has put in on the defensive end after a 2013 season in which the Hurricanes gave up 160 goals, tied for second most in the NHL.

Carolina entered the game having allowed 23 goals, ninth most in the league, but the Hurricanes have given up three goals or less seven times in nine games. Carolina is 4-0-3 in those games.

"From day one at camp this season, we've really focused on our coverage defensively -- five-on-five and goal against and (giving) limited scoring chances," Muller said. "And sometimes when you do that, you kind of pay a little price offensively to get into that. So it's nice because we've been playing well defensively and now we see the goals are starting to kick in."

The Hurricanes were particularly focused on containing the Islanders in the first period. New York had 84 shots on goal in the first two games of a four-game homestand but got just seven shots in a scoreless first period Saturday.

"We're well aware that they're good in the first period, so we really focused on having a good first period, which we did," Muller said.

Carolina quickly began reaping the rewards of its defensive play in the second period when Tlusty poked back a rebound of Eric Staal's shot on a three-on-two rush just 65 seconds into the period.

The Hurricanes doubled the lead less than six minutes later on a power-play goal by Jordan Staal, who passed to Eric Murphy at the blue line, took an immediate pass back from Murphy and beat Evgeni Nabokov.

An Islanders turnover led to the Hurricanes' third goal. New York defenseman Travis Hamonic lost the puck at center ice and Skinner eluded Andrew MacDonald, who was trying to poke the puck free from behind, and fired a shot past Nabokov.

"We've played a lot of consistent hockey," Jordan Staal said. "Once we get our legs going, we're a good team (for) all 60 (minutes). I think once we get going, it's tough for teams to stop (them)."

Tlusty's second goal with 8:54 left in the third period seemed to ice a rout, but the Islanders nearly came all the way back in the final seven minutes, when penalties on Skinner (hooking) and Justin Faulk (delay of game) led to two goals.

Frans Nielsen scored a power play goal with 6:41 to go and Kyle Okposo scored with 1:01 left, two seconds after the power play from Faulk's penalty expired.

"I think we sat back a little bit too much," Jordan Staal said. "Obviously, there were too many penalties. They had a good power play and they made us pay for it, but we were fortunate enough to get that extra goal by Jiri there and find a way to win that game."

Cam Ward had 22 saves for the Hurricanes, including nine in the third period.

The win vaulted the Hurricanes (4-2-3) into sole possession of second place in the Metropolitan Division over the Islanders (3-3-2), who have lost four of their last five (1-3-1).

Matt Moulson scored in the second period for the Islanders and Nabokov survived a mid-game injury scare -- he was on the ice motionless after teammate Matt Carkner crashed into him and sent him into the back of the net, which came off its moorings -- to collect 19 saves.

"We didn't deserve the game," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "We didn't start the way we needed to start."

Islanders defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky suffered a concussion in the first period and had to be helped off the ice after he absorbed a hard hit along the boards from Radek Dvorak. Capuano said Visnovsky would undergo further evaluations on Sunday.

NOTES: The Islanders scratched LW Eric Boulton, D Matt Donovan and C Brock Nelson. The Hurricanes scratched D Brett Bellemore, C Elias Lindholm and LW Brett Sutter. ... Hurricanes D Mike Komisarek was active for just the second time this season. Komisarek is from Islip Terrace, about half an hour from Nassau Coliseum, and had more than a dozen family members and friends at the game. ... C John Tavares entered Saturday with more goals against Carolina (12) than against any other opponent, even though Saturday marked just the 16th time he had faced the Hurricanes. ... This year marks the 15th time the Hurricanes have had at least nine points through eight games -- eight times as the Whalers from 1979 through 1997 and seven times since moving to Carolina.
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