The Eastern Conference standings are prominent in the locker room, and that was all the motivation the Hurricanes needed to rally for a 5-4 victory, their seventh in a row at home.
The last-place Islanders stunned the Hurricanes with four second-period goals, threatening to steal a game and provide a major roadblock to the Hurricanes' drive for the playoffs.
The Hurricanes had a 2-0 lead after one period on goals by Cullen and LaRose, but New York had numerous scoring chances. In the second period, the Isles capitalized on those chances, scoring four times despite being stopped on two other breakaway chances by goalie Cam Ward.
"Yeah, we sat back on our heels," LaRose said. "Even in the first period, they got a lot of scoring chances. We were a little upset with ourselves after the second period. We did not play well in the second, and it showed. You know, we just didn't want to come in here with any regrets after the game."
Instead of regret, there were smiles. The victory vaulted the Hurricanes into sixth in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the New York Rangers and two ahead of Montreal.
On a whiteboard next to the standings in the locker room, Maurice scribbled a postgame message to his team: "Good teams find a way to win."
But Ray Whitney, who had three assists for the Hurricanes, said the only message needed came from the columns of wins and losses. Carolina won the Stanley Cup in 2006 but has missed the playoffs the past two seasons.
"We just look at the board over there and realize where we are," Whitney said.
"I think it shows we have a lot of potential and we can score goals," winger Tim Jackman said. "When we're doing the right things, good things happen."
Tuomo Ruutu scored in the final minute of the second period for Carolina, which has not lost at home since Feb. 17.
"That was huge," Maurice said of Ruutu's goal.
The Hurricanes, 6-1-2 in March, try to continue their hot streak Saturday against visiting Washington, the Southeast Division leader. Whitney said the effort must be more consistent than it was Friday.
"If we learned anything, it was that we can't take a lapse for 10, 15 minutes in a game," Whitney said. "If we do that against Washington, it's not 4-2, it's 6-2. This gave us a little bit of humbling. We realized we're only as good as how hard we work."
- Eric Staal, the Hurricanes' leading scorer, left the game briefly in the second period. He collided with Mannino on a breakaway and hit his head on the goalpost. Staal appeared dazed but skated off on his own and missed less than five minutes of the game.
- The Islanders had no penalties in the first two periods but were called for four in the third period.
- Mannino made 32 saves but put his team in a 1-0 hole in the first minute when he misplayed an innocent pass into the zone. Matt Cullen grabbed the puck and scored into an open net.