Staal's two lead rout of Isles as Canes keep position in playoff chase

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Cam Ward tried to scout the New York Islanders the night before he faced the NHL's worst team, but couldn't find their game on TV in his hotel room.

It didn't matter. The Carolina Hurricanes goalie got plenty of offensive support and cruised to a 6-2 victory on Thursday night.

"Usually playing against a team like this is very dangerous because obviously they have nothing to lose and we have a lot to gain," said Ward, who made 22 saves.

Eric Staal scored two goals, including one in Carolina's big first period, and the Hurricanes gained ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Staal hit the 25-goal mark for the fourth time in five NHL seasons less than a minute after Matt Cullen snapped a 1-1 tie with 3:45 remaining in the first period. Staal netted No. 26 late in the second as the Hurricanes pulled away for their fourth straight road win.

It's their best road run since a five-game spurt from Oct. 22-Nov. 14, 2005, during Carolina's Stanley Cup championship season. They have dropped three straight at home, but will try to change their luck Friday against Tampa Bay.

"It's a chance for us to respond," Staal said. "We have this win here and hopefully we'll build on it."

The Hurricanes, ninth in the Eastern Conference, closed within three points of Florida and the postseason cutoff. Ray Whitney, Dennis Seidenberg and Sergei Samsonov added goals.

Staal said they are keeping the scoreboard watching to a minimum.

"We have to focus on our game and the way we need to play, and everything else will take care of itself," he said. "We know if we play the type of hockey that we did tonight ... we're going to get our fair share of wins and we'll be fine."

Islanders defenseman Mark Streit scored for the third time in his last four games, but New York dropped both ends of back-to-back games -- including a 3-1 road loss to the New York Rangers on Wednesday.

Jon Sim also scored, and Joey MacDonald made 24 saves for the Islanders, who had won four of six home games (4-0-2), but own the NHL's worst record (17-35-6). New York has lost seven of eight overall (1-6-1).

"Tonight's result speaks for itself," Streit said. "It was a bad game on our part, and it was the opposite of last night. They took advantage of their chances as we just played poor defensively."

Whitney gave Carolina a 1-0 lead 5:23 in when he deflected Anton Babchuk's left-point shot past the ineffective MacDonald. Streit tied it with a power-play goal at 11:48.

Cullen put Carolina ahead for good after Whitney found him alone in the slot. He calmly shifted the puck from backhand to forehand and swept in a shot. Staal made it 3-1 by turning a pass from Samsonov in the left circle into a drive over MacDonald's right shoulder with 2:51 left in the first.

"We were good enough," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said. "I don't think it was an ESPN Classic, but at the same time we needed this game clearly more than they did."

Islanders defenseman Bruno Gervais nearly brought his club within a goal early in the second, but for the second straight night was turned aside by the goal post.

"It's a poor game we haven't had in a while," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. "You look at the standings, and we should have a lot more of these games."

Staal got back on the board with 3:11 remaining in the second, off another assist from Samsonov, and Seidenberg pushed the lead to 5-1 with 15.4 seconds left.

"This is a team that doesn't have a lot of points in the standings," Staal said. "We wanted to respond well and I thought we did that the whole way, right from the beginning, and it kind of carried us through the rest of the way."

Samsonov and Sim traded goals in the third period.

Game notes
Staal has six goals and three assists in his last seven road games. ... Islanders RW Richard Park will be out four weeks due to broken ribs. Park had played in 223 consecutive games. ... New York RW Trent Hunter (hip flexor) returned after missing four games. ... The Hurricanes have outscored opponents 20-7 during their road-winning streak.