Carolina Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice could not stress enough the importance of his team's 2-1 win over the lowly New York Islanders on Wednesday night.
The Islanders are the second-worst team in the Eastern Conference, but the Hurricanes were returning home for the first time after a four-game road swing on which they went 0-3-1 and dropped their last three.
Andrei Kovalenko and Robert Kron each scored a goal and Arturs Irbe stopped 24 shots to lead the Hurricanes.
After Carolina built a 2-1 lead through two periods, the Hurricanes defense took charge in the third period, holding the Islanders to one shot.
The Hurricanes outshot the Islanders 29-25 in the game and won all four meetings with the Islanders this season. New York has won just one of its last 11 games.
The Hurricanes got the winning goal on their first shot of the second period. Kron's 25-foot slap shot beat goalie Wade Flaherty to his right. On the play, Jeff O'Neill was tied up with two defenders, but was able to shovel the puck to the waiting Kron.
"After a road trip like we just had, you usually don't play that well in the first game back at home. but it was good to get a win tonight," said Kron. "I don't care about getting the winning goal or anything like that, I just wanted us to get that win, because we needed it."
The Islanders had a solid chance to score in the second period, but couldn't take advantage. Claude Lapointe picked up a loose puck at center ice and had a breakaway on Arturs Irbe. But Irbe kicked away Lapointe's shot.
"The defense was just outstanding tonight," said Maurice.
Carolina opened the scoring midway through the frst period when Kovalenko scored his 17th of the season. Marek Malik dumped the puck toward the goal, and when it ricocheted off the boards behind the goal, Kovalenko gathered it in front and beat Flaherty.
The Islanders answered just 14 seconds later when Mark Lawrence beat Irbe from point-blank range.
The Hurricanes' league-worst power play went 0-for-6.
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