Staff photo by Chris Seward
RALEIGH — Eric Staal notched his fourth hat trick of the season, a new franchise record, and had an assist as the Carolina Hurricanes streaked past the shell-shocked New York Islanders 9-0 Tuesday at the RBC Center.
Tuomo Ruutu had a pair of goals, and Dwight Helminen, Scott Walker, Rod Brind'Amour, and Frantisek Kaberle also scored for the Canes, who led 3-0 after the first period and 6-0 after two.
Goaltender Cam Ward, making his 27th straight start for the Canes, earned his 39th win, topping the franchise record set by Martin Gerber in 2006. His sixth shutout of the season tied the team record held by Arturs Irbe and Kevin Weekes.
Canes coach Paul Maurice said Tuesday morning that it would understandable to have a letdown after securing a playoff berth Saturday. Instead the Canes looked like a team intent on securing a top-four finish in the Eastern Conference and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
"We played well," Maurice said. "They've got some injuries and sickness. They've been fighting as hard as they can for a long time and ... they just kind of broke tonight.
"But we came out and we skated very, very well. Our forwards did exactly what we hoped they would do — they hunted the puck down and we didn't give a whole lot. We were very sharp and clearly they weren't."
Carolina won its ninth straight game, tying the franchise record set in 2006, and stretched its record winning streak at the RBC Center to 12 games.
"We're playing like a well-oiled machine, I would say," Staal said.
Staal scored a first-period goal, then added two in the second after taking a stick in the mouth on the opening faceoff of the period. It's the eighth hat trick of his career and he has 39 goals this season.
"It was one of those nights where we're a team that's rolling and playing well and they're a team that's playing (the season) out," said Staal. "It's just one of those nights."
Helminen's goal at 2:54 of the first came on a tip of a Dennis Seidenberg shot — the goal originally was scored to Seidenberg — after Staal and Ray Whitney each missed on good scoring opportunities in the first minute of play.
Seidenberg took a shot from just inside the blue line with Helminen and Tim Conboy providing traffic in the slot in front of goaltender Yann Danis. Helminen got a piece of the puck for his second goal.
Staal scored his 37th at 9:07 with a wrister from the left circle after a nifty lead pass from Erik Cole, who had four assists.
Walker then scored with 38.2 seconds left in the period to make it 3-0. Walker's shot glanced off Isles defenseman Thomas Pock, off the boards behind the goal and then back to the forward, who popped in the puck for his fifth goal.
Staal took a stick in the mouth from Richard Park to begin the second period. The Canes didn't score on the double-minor with Joey MacDonald replacing Danis in goal, but Staal scored on a rush at 5:12 of the second after beating defenseman Jack Hillen.
Brind'Amour scored a power-play goal to make it 5-0 on a no-look pass from Jussi Jokinen. It was Brind'Amour's 16th goal, and Seidenberg picked up his second assist of the game.
Staal had hats flying on the ice with 3:09 left in the second after a setup pass from Cole, who had four assists.