New York Islanders center Brock Nelson (29) is congratulated by teammates. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The New York Islanders are determined to do their part. So far, that has been enough to keep them in playoff contention in the Eastern Conference.
They struck early and Jaroslav Halak made 29 saves in a 3-0 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes, maintaining their bid to play in the postseason Thursday night at PNC Arena.
"Obviously, we're in a tough situation where we have to rely on other teams," said Islanders left winger Anders Lee. "We're a resilient group. We're not going to go down easy."
The Islanders (39-29-12), who have their first four-game winning streak of the season, kept their slim playoff hopes alive. New York trails the Toronto Maple Leafs, who currently hold the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot, by three points with two games remaining.
Islanders interim coach Doug Weight said he is impressed with how the team has focused during this stretch.
"They wrapped their heads around it and really grasped it," Weight said. "It was a tough gig. They stepped up and played hard."
The Islanders scored twice in the opening 4:39, with Brock Nelson and Scott Mayfield converting. Andrew Ladd scored 39 seconds into the second period.
The Hurricanes, who were playing their first game since they were eliminated from playoff contention two nights earlier, have dropped four games in a row -- all in a six-night span.
Goalie Eddie Lack made 20 saves for Carolina, but he is winless in three consecutive outings.
The Hurricanes (35-31-14) have been shutout victims in consecutive home games. Four of the five times they've been blanked this season have come on home ice.
Despite the situation facing the team, Carolina coach Bill Peters expected a more energized performance.
"It's hard to watch," he said. "I thought we were flat and stayed flat. It was a disappointing start to the game. ... I didn't think we had the intensity to execute at a high level. I don't think you can play at this level and not have the NHL intensity and not have NHL execution."
The Islanders have excelled despite using an altered roster because of injuries.
"We've had guys step in and simplified our game a little bit and make teams have to try to beat us," Ladd said.
The Islanders didn't waver after the strong start. They didn't want to jump on the Hurricanes early and not end up with a reward at the end.
"We stuck with our game plan and didn't let them back in," Lee said.
Halak posted his second shutout of the season and the 41st of his career. He has been used in five consecutive games.
"Our team has been very confident in front of our goaltenders this year," Weight said.
The Hurricanes' offensive woes have been magnified again. They've been outscored 14-5 across their four-game losing streak.
It might be a matter of working harder in front of the net.
"We need to try to get seconds and thirds," Hurricanes right winger Sebastian Aho said of rebounds and multiple chances.
The Islanders led 3-0 after two periods, though the Hurricanes appeared to perk up with 15 second-period shots.
Nelson had the first goal just 87 seconds into the game when the puck appeared to go off Carolina's Jordan Staal. Nelson was credited with an unassisted goal.
Mayfield, a defenseman, took a spot in front of the net to collect a rebound and score for the game's second goal. His only other goal this season came Dec. 6.
Ladd posted a power-play goal on an opening shift in the second period, racing down the right side for an uncontested shot that blew past Lack.
NOTES: This was the first home game for LW Bryan Bickell since late October. He returned to NHL action for the first time Tuesday night at Minnesota following a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis that caused him to miss a large chunk of the season. ... It was also the home debut for Carolina C Andrew Poturalski. ... The Islanders improved to 22-12-4 under interim coach Doug Weight, who was a member of Carolina's 2006 Stanley Cup champion team. ... The Islanders complete the road portion of their schedule Saturday at New Jersey. ... The Hurricanes complete their home schedule Saturday night against the St. Louis Blues.