So much for turning it around in Raleigh. Instead, Scott Gordon's Islanders dropped a third straight against the suddenly resurgent Candy Canes by a count of 4-1. There was nothing sweet about this one as they managed to fall behind by two and never recovered.
“You give a team, no matter where they are in the standings, the type of chances we gave them, you’re not going to win games,” disappointed lone scorer Matt Moulson said after netting his 20th to break Cam Ward's shutout bid with 4:31 left. “They’re a team that’s hot. We knew that and we came out pretty sluggish.”Coming off a home blowout loss at the hands of the Caps with a chance to push ahead of the idle Rangers into playoff position, instead the Islanders allowed sizzling new Carolina captain Eric Staal to keep it going when he netted his third in 24 hours versus New York teams. In their 5-1 blowout of the Rangers, he tallied twice. This time, the franchise center came out of the corner and steered home his own rebound converting on the power play at 9:19. Brandon Sutter and ex-Ranger Matt Cullen added assists.
It didn't take long for the Hurricanes to extend the lead when the aforementioned Cullen got to a loose puck and fired a quick wrister from the right circle through a maze past Rick DiPietro 2:53 later. A battle tested player who could be on the way out, Cullen's turned it up this month with points in six of his last seven including his 10th goal and a helper last night. He's up to a dozen points (2-10-12) in January. Dating back to Dec.26, almost half (2-14-16) his season total 34 points have come over that period. The 33 year-old vet is versatile and can help someone. Might the center starved Devils be interested?
After being outscored by two and outshot 12-9, the Isles mustered little in a second that featured a combined eight shots with just three from the visitors- making life easy for Ward. In fact, an acrobatic DiPietro save kept it competitive. His teammates finally turned it up in the third outshooting Carolina 15-5. However, they remained stymied when Andrew Alberts went off for hooking. With an opportunity to get right back in it, the Isles were victimized by fourth liner Stephane Yelle for a crushing shorthanded goal just 21 seconds following the penalty. Mark Streit got caught pinching, allowing Pat Dwyer to push the puck out to Yelle who then skated down the left wing before wisely using Islander captain Doug Weight as a screen from the left circle. His first goal in 28 games went between Weight's legs past DiPietro's right glove to the goalie's chagrin. Not a good goal to give up.
Down three, Moulson hit 20 when Frans Nielsen slipped a pass to him for a quick shot to finally beat Ward. A nice reward for a camp steal who's wound up as the club's top finisher three ahead of rookie John Tavares. His 33 points are tied with JT91 for second behind Kyle Okposo's 36. Where would they be without him? Unfortunately, that was as close as they got with Staal finding Jussi Jokinen for an empty netter with 45 ticks left, sealing it.
Hillen Out 6-8 Weeks With Broken Jaw: As has been known the past couple of days stemming from a scary moment when defenseman Jack Hillen took an Alexander Ovechkin shot right to the chin, he's out six to eight weeks with a broken jaw. It looked a lot worse with the puck appearing to strike his mouth bloodying him. Islanders team medics quickly got to the ice to treat him and help him off the ice as a stunned Ovechkin watched with his head down Tuesday.
Signed as a free agent a couple of years ago, the just turned 24 year-old from Minnesota has evolved into a solid player under Gordon. After getting into 40 games and posting a goal and five assists last year, he'd become a regular on the blueline contributing two goals and career highs in assists (14), points (16), penalty minutes (36), power play points (5) and games (49). Already minus Radek Martinek (done for season) and Brendan Witt (IR), it's just one more obstacle the Islanders will have to overcome. Yesterday's recall Dustin Kohn played 12 minutes finishing minus-one.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Matt Moulson, NYI (20th of season, 3 SOG, +1 in 19 shifts-13:46)
2nd Star-Eric Staal, Car (PPG/assist, 2 SOG, 7-7 draws, +1 in 19:15)
1st Star-Matt Cullen, Car (GW/assist, 5 SOG, 4-5 draws, +1 in 19:21)