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Staal leading way for Hurricanes in playoffs

OT winner in Game 1 against Islanders was seventh point in eight games

by Shawn Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Senior Director of Editorial

NEW YORK -- Jordan Staal, one of the focal points of the improbable march of the Carolina Hurricanes through the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, was front and center in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the New York Islanders at Barclays Center on Friday.

Staal scored the only goal, at 4:04 of overtime, to give the Hurricanes a 1-0 victory and hand the Islanders their first loss in five postseason games. New York swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round.

Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is here Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, CBC, TVAS).

 

[RELATED: Complete Islanders vs. Hurricanes series coverage]

 

Carolina advanced to the second round by eliminating the Washington Capitals, the defending Stanley Cup champions, in seven games. The Hurricanes won 4-3 in overtime in Game 7 at Washington on Wednesday, less than 48 hours before the start of the series against the Islanders. 

"We knew we wanted to get a good start in the series and wanted to roll into this game on a high and try to keep riding that wave, and it was a good start," Staal said.

Video: Jordan Staal scores the OT winner vs. Islanders

After Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek and Islanders goalie Robin Lehner combined to stop each of the 60 shots in regulation, Staal scored on Carolina's first shot in overtime, collecting a wide attempt from Nino Niederreiter that kicked off the end boards and onto his stick. He got his shot off before Islanders defenseman Devon Toews could interfere with a poke check. The puck banked off the skate of Lehner as he slid across the crease.

"I'm not aiming there, I'm shooting it as hard as I can and crossing my fingers," said Staal, who scored for the third straight game and has seven points (four goals, three assists) in eight playoff games.

Consecutive overtime wins are not a surprise to Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour. He says his team has been playing playoff hockey since Jan. 1, trying to overcome a 16-17-5 start. The kick to finish 46-29-7 and earn the first wild card into the playoffs from the East has steeled them for moments like this.

"I think there is a belief, for sure," Brind'Amour said. "I think the group believes in each other. When they get in these situations, there is certainly no panic. They expect to win. That is the thing to me that has changed this year. We are a group that has always worked hard, but I don't know that we expected the results Now, every night we play, even with the injuries we have and the guys we have in our lineup, we expect to win. That's a big part of the success we are having."

The Hurricanes played Game 1 without forwards Andrei Svechnikov, Micheal Ferland and Jordan Martinook, who combined for 102 points (52 goals, 50 assists) during the season.

Staal has been leading the way in the playoffs. Like the Hurricanes, Staal has not always produced the results commensurate with his effort.

After scoring 139 points (55 goals, 84 assists) the past three seasons, Staal had 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists) in 50 games this season.

"He doesn't have more to give," Brind'Amour said. "He can't give more than he gives; absolutely no chance. The results have not always been there for him. These playoffs, you are starting to see what he can do."

Getting positive results are starting to show the Hurricanes what they can do in this postseason, their first playoff appearance since reaching the Eastern Conference Final in 2009.

"We've learned a lot," forward Justin Williams said. "We've certainly learned a lot from that last series, and we are drawing from it. We need big performances from key players."

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