UNIONDALE, N.Y. - The Carolina Hurricanes extended their winning streak to a season-long five games with a 4-3 win over the New York Islanders.
Justin Williams and Jaccob Slavin scored goals for the Canes in the waning minutes of regulation, and Slavin's power-play tally was the difference in the team's return to Nassau Coliseum.
Here are five takeaways from tonight's game on Long Island.
With less than five minutes remaining in the third period of a tie game, captain Justin Williams was whistled for a hook. The Canes responded with a sharp penalty kill, never really allowing the Islanders a good look to take the lead.
"I was just in the box with my head down hoping they'd kill off the penalty for me, and they did. They didn't even make me sweat too, too much," Williams said. "That's what I mean about picking each other up. The guys picked me up tonight. I could kiss all the penalty killers on the lips tonight."
Only 15 seconds after Williams exited the box, he gave the Canes a 3-2 lead. On a clear in, Thomas Greiss sent the puck around the boards. The Canes forced a turnover, and Greg McKegg put a pass on Williams' tape. He dangled and then roofed a backhand shot.
Video: CAR@NYI: Williams goes top shelf with backhand
That's a clutch goal from the team's leader.
"That's a tough penalty. Obviously, you don't want to take a penalty there," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "He knows it, and we all know it. Then, he goes out and gets the huge, huge goal for us. Give the guys credit who killed the penalty for him. That's the first thing he said when he went into the locker room. Good teams have to do that. You have to find a way to get a win and pick each other up."
With just over two minutes left in regulation, the Canes were rewarded with a power play after Leo Komarov cross-checked Brock McGinn into the far boards.
Following an offneisve-zone faceoff win on the man advantage, Dougie Hamilton worked the puck over to Slavin, who had time and space to walk with it. His wrist shot then beat Greiss through traffic, and the blue-liner's 100th career point gave the Canes a two-goal lead.
Video: CAR@NYI: Slavin extends lead with late PPG
It seemed like the dagger, but it ended up being the game-winning goal, after Brock Nelson tallied his second goal of the game with 59 seconds remaining to add some drama to the game's final minute.
"Turns out to be the game-winning goal. Perfect. We didn't know we'd need it, but we did," Williams said. "Seems like we always make it interesting, even when we don't have to. We got it done."
Saku Maenalanen has a puck to take home from this one, as he netted his first career NHL goal just 88 seconds after the Islanders opened the scoring in the first period.
Warren Foegele got the puck deep and got in on the forecheck. The puck bounced around in a scrum in the corner, and Victor Rask took a whack at it. The puck popped up in the air, and Maenalanen gloved it down as he cut to the front of the net. He tried to get a backhand on the puck, but it was Nick Leddy's stick tapping it past Greiss. His stick might not have put the puck in the net, but they all count just the same.
Video: CAR@NYI: Maenalanen pots first career goal
"It looked like he had been knocking on the door in the last few games," McKegg said of Maenalanen. "For him to break that seal was huge. He's playing really well."
The Canes got more assistance from the Islanders to take a 2-1 with just six seconds remaining in the first period. But, again, the goal came as a result of an active, aggressive forecheck. Micheal Ferland got the puck deep and retrieved his own dump-in before centering in front. The puck changed angles off McKegg and ricocheted in off Adam Pelech.
Video: CAR@NYI: McKegg nets goal on deflection
"[Ferland] made a great play getting it in deep and getting there first," McKegg said. "I just tried to get to the net and stop at the net. Lucky bounce."
"Those guys have really contributed, and I think Kegger might have been our best forward. Every time I threw him out there, he was noticeable. Saku had a good game, too," Brind'Amour said. "These are the guys who are helping out."
The Canes scored two goals in the first period, but they didn't actively shoot either of them into the net. They'll take it, especially considering Brind'Amour said they didn't have their best start and were lucky to take a lead to the locker room.
Credit to the Canes video team of Chris Huffine and LJ Scarpace, as well as goaltending coach Mike Bales' eye in the sky, for challenging what appeared to be a game-tying goal for the Islanders in the second period. Jordan Eberle was left open in the slot and slid the puck through Curtis McElhinney's five-hole to even the score at two at the 2:40 mark of the second, but a second look through the coach's challenge showed Valtteri Filppula was offside on the zone entry; Filppula's front skate was across the blue line and his back skate was off the ice prior to the puck entering the zone.
"We've got great coaches here who work so hard behind the scenes, Chris Huffine and LJ," Brind'Amour said. "They radioed in that it was offsides, and it was. You could see it clear as day. We got real fortunate there."
That arguably changed the course of the second period, as the Canes took their 2-1 lead into the third.
The Canes are now riding a season-long, five-game winning streak, and it's come at a critical juncture of the season.
The most encouraging aspect of the streak? The Canes feel as though they aren't even playing their best hockey.
"We're finding ways to win games. That's what good teams do," Williams said. "Hopefully we'll wind it up and be better next game."
"Winning breeds that (confidence). It's kind of a snowball effect," Brind'Amour said. "We're just finding ways to win right now without playing our best. … We know we can get better."
The Hurricanes will look to extend their winning streak to six when they wrap up their three-game road trip in Tampa on Thursday.