1. Grinding Out a Win
The Hurricanes were winless in their last four games, the Islanders winless in their last five coming into this Metropolitan Division showdown between two teams jockeying for a playoff spot.
It felt like a big game in the hours leading up to puck drop, and that playoff atmosphere was evident throughout.
This was a big game. They're all big games down the stretch.
"Other than a few teams, everybody is grinding for playoffs. Everybody is doing it. I don't see any game being any different," Justin Williams said. "Certainly for us, we let up a little bit, and we'll be left behind."
Twice in regulation, the Canes took a lead. Twice in regulation, the Islanders tied it. It took overtime and a conversion on their fifth power play of the game to settle the score.
"When you lose a few in a row, you just really need to grind one out. That's what we said after the second: just stay in it, grind it out, be patient," Williams said. "It's a big win for our club."
"A game like this was something we needed," Trocheck said. "We've been playing really well and playing really hard, but it was just finding a way to win a 3-2 game, a 2-1 game, a one-goal game like that. It's huge for our momentum and confidence."
2. Welcome to the Team
Welcome to the Hurricanes, Vincent Trocheck.
In his fifth game with the Canes, Trocheck netted his first goal with his new team - and it couldn't have been bigger.
On a 4-on-3 power play in overtime, Andrei Svechnikov backhanded a puck out of mid-air. The puck deflected off the crossbar, right to Trocheck, who pounded it into the net.
Video: CAR@NYI: Trocheck cleans up rebound for OT winner
Officials reviewed the play to ensure Svechnikov's stick was not above shoulder height when he contacted the puck. The Canes, meanwhile, prepared to resume their power play, just in case.
"I just put it in my mind that it wasn't a goal, just to kind of focus on if it was called no goal that we were going to go out there and make sure we got it again," Trocheck said.
It was beneficial for the Canes that the call on the ice was a goal. The video replay, then, would have had to be conclusive, and that's a tough call to make given replay angles.
"I was pretty sure we were going to get it," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "They called it [a goal] on the ice. It was definitely not one of those obvious ones one way or the other, but we were preparing for, OK, if it doesn't happen, what do we do? We were getting ready for that."
Point to center ice. A good goal. Celebration for the Canes, confusion for the Islanders. A huge goal for Trocheck, who had a handful of quality scoring opportunities in the four games prior.
"It was feeling like I wasn't getting any bounces these first few games," he said. "To finally get one and for it to be an OT winner, that's definitely something I'll remember."
"He's had a lot of opportunities, so it's nice to see him get one like that that's huge for us," Brind'Amour said.
3. Striking First
For the first time in seven games, the Hurricanes scored the first goal of the game.
Haydn Fleury let go of a bomb from downtown, and Justin Williams redirected it into the net. A brief video review confirmed Williams' stick contacted the puck below the crossbar, though the scoresheet didn't properly credit him with the goal until the third period. Williams, who five goals this season, has now scored in three straight games.
Video: CAR@NYI: Williams deflects home Fleury's shot
The first goal of the game isn't the sole determinant of the game's outcome, of course, but it certainly does make a difference. The Canes are now 25-3-2 when scoring first versus 11-22-3 when not.
"It seems like we've been down quite a bit in the last few games early, so getting that first one was a big one for momentum," Trocheck said. "The team that scores first the majority of the time is going to win the game."
And what a difference it makes mentally to not have to chase the lead for the first time in what seems like forever, a tangible reward for a solid start.
"It's a little bit of a relief," Williams said. "Hopefully we can start that trend."
"We've been struggling on that. Even if we've played well, we haven't been able to score [first] and get ahead. It just relaxes you," Brind'Amour said. "It's a lot easier way to play, that's for sure."
4. Steady Eddy
Go to the net, and good things happen.
Joel Edmundson joined a rush and scored to give the Canes a 2-1 lead at the 6:16 mark of the third period, a goal that looked like might hold up as the game-winner until Josh Bailey tied the score in the final five minutes.
Video: CAR@NYI: Edmundson nets fortuitous bounce in front
Teuvo Teravainen crossed the blue line and laid the puck off for Svechnikov, who cut to the middle and gave the puck back to Teravainen. Usually one to look to make a play, Teravainen instead elected to shoot. Good decision, as it turned out. The puck deflected off Andy Greene's skate, right to Edmundson for the easy tap-in.
5. Special Teams Comes Through
While it had some quality looks, the Hurricanes power play didn't convert in regulation, then finally capitalizing when it mattered most - and that's all that really matters.
The penalty kill was a perfect 3-for-3, the best sequence coming late in the second period. The Islanders had evened the score 5:15 in on Ryan Poluck's one-timer from atop the right circle, and momentum seemed to be swinging in New York's favor. The Canes stifled that with an excellent kill. Brock McGinn handed Edmundson his stick and then proceeded to block a pair of shots. The Islanders couldn't get any pucks through the Canes' tight defense, and the game remained 1-1 heading into the second intermission.
"That's the game, for me," Brind'Amour said. "That sequence in the second period where they get back in the game, and we were on the kill for what felt like forever. It was only for two [minutes], but we're blocking shots. Jordo got one. We lose a stick. It was a whole comedy of errors for a little while, but we were able to hunker down and get it done."
Attention to the details of the game is what helped the Canes ultimately grind out the win.
"I love the fight. I love Dzingel dropping the gloves. I loved our PK blocking shots. I loved our battle level. I loved everything about that game," Williams said. "Could we do things a lot better? Yes. Could we play a little bit better with the lead? Yes. But we grinded it out, and that's a big win."
Another Metropolitan Division matinee is on tap for Sunday when the Hurricanes visit the Pittsburgh Penguins.