Canes get 3-2 win over NY Islanders

calexander@newsobserver.comJanuary 4, 2014 

— The Carolina Hurricanes have been chasing teams ahead of them in the Metropolitan Division, trying to win games and climb the standings.

On Saturday, the Canes faced a team that was chasing them.

The Canes topped the New York Islanders 3-2 for their third straight win, getting 38 saves from goalie Anton Khudobin and the winning goal from center Brett Sutter, who began the week with the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL.

A big concern for the Canes was having captain Eric Staal leave in the second period with a lower-body injury. Staal did not return to the game and his availability for Sunday's game against the Nashville Predators was not known.

"It's not easy when the big man goes down," said the Canes' Jordan Staal, who scored in the second period. "It creates a big hole but you've got to stick with it and do what you do.

"It took a full effort from everyone in the room. It's a big two points for us."

Following up the Canes' 4-3 overtime win Thursday against the Washington Capitals, Khudobin was given a second consecutive start. He was under assault in the final three minutes as the Isles pulled goalie Evgeni Nabokov and went with a sixth attacker and then the Canes' Alex Semin drew an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty.

The Isles' Thomas Vanek scored a 6-on-4 goal, but the Canes (17-16-9)held on to win as Khudobin gloved a heavy shot just before time expired.

"It's been a gutsy three games," Canes coach Kirk Muller said. "The guys really shut it down well at the end. I felt pretty comfortable about the way we played in the third. We protected the lead, we were good without the puck, we defended well."

The first period was scoreless as neither team could establish any offensive flow. But that changed in the second, when the Canes had more jump and got goals from Manny Malhotra, Jordan Staal and Sutter in taking a 3-1 lead.

Patrick Dwyer assisted on the first two goals and was perhaps the Canes' most active forward in the game. Dwyer had seven of the Canes' 30 shots.

Dwyer converted a takeaway into a pass to Malhotra for the first score, his third in three games, but John Tavares countered for the Isles 44 seconds later for a 1-1 tie. Vanek picked off a pass by Drayson Bowman in the Canes zone and got the puck to Tavares, who beat Khudobin for his 17th of the season.

But the Canes then scored two goals in a span of 57 seconds to reclaim the lead.

Dwyer made a quick pass off the left boards to Jordan Staal open between the circles for a 2-1 lead.

Sutter then picked up his first goal of the season. Nabokov stopped a shot by Jeff Skinner from the left circle but Sutter, who had just made a line change, backhanded the rebound for the score at 14:09 of the period.

It was the second career goal in 51 NHL games for Sutter, whose first goal came in December 2008. Sutter was recalled Thursday to replace injured center Riley Nash but got little ice time against the Caps.

"It's been a while," Sutter said of the goal, smiling.

Sutter was needed Saturday, especially after Staal's injury. At times in the third, he centered Skinner and Semin.

Skinner had a hat trick against the Caps and had scored 15 goals in the past 14 games. He didn't score Saturday but picked up an assist on Sutter's goal.

The Islanders controlled play much of the first period and had 10 shots. Tavares had a partial breakaway in the period but defenseman Ron Hainsey recovered well enough to get a piece of the puck.

Ryan Strome got off a heavy shot during an Isles power play, but Khudobin made the stop.

The most interesting moment in the first may have come with 6:26 left in the period when the Isles' Matt Martin rammed Canes defenseman Ryan Murphy in the boards. A scuffle ensued and the Eric Staal, who quickly jumped in to defend Murphy, was called for the only penalty for roughing.

Dwyer started the game on Malhotra's line -- a change from the morning skate -- but quickly was shifted back to Jordan Staal's line early in the game. It was a move that worked.

Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip

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