When the opposition is missing two of its best players, coming off a brutal loss the night before somewhere else, out of the playoff picture and short a skater because there's no way to get a replacement delivered on short notice, good teams remove all hope as quickly as possible.
Let a team like the Vancouver Canucks hang around, and crazy things can happen. Score on your first shift, 14 seconds in, and they do not.
For the Carolina Hurricanes, Friday night's 4-1 win was less about a sorely needed win than it was doing what good teams do: Brett Pesce's early goal was followed by two more in the first period, and that, essentially, was that.
The question is whether this was a step in the right direction or merely a routine cull of the sick and wounded from the NHL herd, and the Hurricanes will find out Saturday night when they're right back in action against the ready-and-waiting Colorado Avalanche.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“You're always looking for that stepping stone, that brick in the ground, and see what it becomes,” Hurricanes forward Justin Williams said. “It's important to get the next one. Playoff teams string five, six, seven wins together and we haven't done that. We've been mired in mediocrity this season and we need to get some traction, get going, string a few together.”
That has been the challenge for the Hurricanes, and inconsistent goaltending has been a part of it. Scott Darling was good enough Friday, although the three-goal cushion certainly helped. The Hurricanes played better in front of him, which has been a big part of the problems Darling has had, but Darling didn't let in anything he shouldn't have, either. The Canucks' one goal was through a double screen, and while Darling looked scrambly at times and seemed to lose sight of the puck in his skates at others, there's no arguing with the results.
Perhaps jolted into action by the departure to the minors of fourth-liners Marcus Kruger and Josh Jooris, the Hurricanes started fast, to the delight of a boisterous crowd for You Can Play night. Even Phil Di Giuseppe scored, his first goal in 14 months. After two terrible performances and one passive one, the Hurricanes took care of business early and coasted to the finish -- not a criticism but a tactical luxury given the back-to-back against a rested opponent.
So that's one win, and a sorely needed one after the Hurricanes took one lousy point from the past three games. They're now 3-2-1 on this eight-game homestand, and while that's not good enough, they can still get to 5-2-1, which would be closer to acceptable. For a team that has one four-game winning streak and two three-game winning streaks all season, this one win – their first by more than two goals in more than a month – can't be enough.
Good teams see this as a beginning, not an end point, which has too often been part of this team's problem. Satisfaction comes too easily to this group. The Hurricanes did what good teams do Friday, but it's meaningless if they can't do it again Saturday.
Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock