Top line wakes up; Canes beat Islanders 4-3

calexander@newsobseerver.comOctober 19, 2013 

— The Carolina Hurricanes found themselves in an unusual position Saturday – holding a lead in the third period.

After rallying from two-goal deficits in the third the past two games, the Canes outlasted the New York Islanders 4-3 in a Metropolitan Division game at Nassau Coliseum.

Jiri Tlusty, scoreless in the first eight games this season, scored twice for the Canes (4-2-3). Jordan Staal also picked up his first goal of the season on a power play, and Jeff Skinner scored on a nifty backhander.

“When you get contributions from guys like (Tlusty and Staal), that we need to score, it was the big difference in winning the game,” Canes coach Kirk Muller said.

Tlusty’s second goal, which came about 11 minutes into the third, boosted the lead to 4-1. But the Isles kept pushing, getting a power-play goal from Frans Nielsen and then a score by Kyle Okposo with an extra attacker.

Okposo’s goal came with 61 seconds left in regulation. The Isles (3-3-2) then swarmed Canes goalie Cam Ward but Tlusty finally was able to clear the puck out of the zone in the final seconds.

After a scoreless first period, the Canes bolted to a 3-0 lead in the second before the Isles got a late power-play score.

Tlusty, who was among the NHL leaders with 23 goals last season, scored both his goals on well-executed rushes. On the first, Alexander Semin passed from the right wing and Eric Staal got a piece of the puck in the slot as Tlusty swept in from the back side and whipped the puck past Isles goalie Evgeni Nabokov.

Tlusty hustled to get into the rush in the third period, converting off a two-on-one with Semin. Eric Staal earned his second assist on the score.

“I can’t lie. I was a little frustrated,” Tlusty said. “I had chances but was missing the net. I put a lot of pressure on myself at the start of the season and it kind of was in my head and things weren’t going well.

“I stayed with it and worked hard. Some nights weren’t good but you have to keep focusing on working hard, and everything will just come to you.”

Jordan Staal picked up his first of the season when defenseman Ryan Murphy made a no-look pass to him. Staal then ripped a shot past Nabokov.

Skinner’s third of the season came after a Riley Nash steal near the left boards in the Isles zone. Nash pushed the puck to Skinner in the low slot and the winger scored on a top-shelf shot.

The Isles had a scare – and the Canes perhaps a flashback – midway through the second. Nabokov was hit by a sliding Isles defenseman and was down on the ice for several moments.

Nabokov stayed in the game and finished with 19 saves. Ward had 22 stops as the Canes won a second straight road game and pushed their record at Nassau to 10-1-2 in the last 13 games.

On Thursday, the Canes scored three in the third on the road to rally past Toronto 3-2. Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer was knocked out of that game in the first minute.

That came two days after the Canes scored twice in the third to tie the Chicago Blackhawks, only to lose in a shootout 3-2 to the defending Stanley Cup champions at PNC Arena.

“We’ve played a lot of consistent hockey,” Jordan Staal said. “Once we get our legs going we’re a good team. Once we get going we’re a tough team to stop.”

The Canes have a break before their next two games, both on the road. Carolina faces Minnesota on Thursday, then Colorado on Friday in a back-to-back.

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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