New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) scores a goal past Carolina Hurricanes goalie Anton Khudobin (31) in the second period of an NHL hockey game in Uniondale, N.Y., Saturday Jan. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul J. Bereswill)
UNIONDALE, N.Y. - The Carolina Hurricanes have so much success against the New York Islanders, they can even beat them with their eyes closed.
Well, at least Jordan Staal can.
Staal and Brett Sutter scored 57 seconds apart in the second period, and the Hurricanes topped the Islanders again, 3-2 on Saturday night for their third consecutive win.
Staal broke a tie with his ninth goal with 6:48 left in the second. Sutter stretched the Carolina lead to 3-1 with 5:51 to go with the second of his NHL career and first since his debut on Dec. 23, 2008—a span of 50 games.
Staal was left uncovered in front as the puck was in the Islanders' end, and Patrick Dwyer got it to him for a slam-dunk goal.
"I just gave a quick yell, and Patty just threw it in an area and was fortunate enough to get it to me," Staal said. "From there I just closed my eyes and shot it as hard as I could."
That put the Hurricanes in front 2-1, and they weren't caught again thanks to the stellar play of Anton Khudobin, who made 38 saves.
Khudobin improved to 4-0, including wins in back-to-back games. He is showing fine form after sitting out 32 games this season due to injury. The Hurricanes haven't missed injured top goalie Cam Ward, and others such as Sutter filled in well to cover for players on the shelf.
Carolina might now be without captain Eric Staal, who left the game with an injury and didn't return. His status for Sunday's game against Nashville isn't yet known.
"We had a couple of big games from a few different guys, and then just steady hockey from everyone else," said Jordan Staal, Eric's brother. "There is not a whole lot of mistakes being made. We stuck with what we do."
Manny Malhotra staked the Hurricanes to a 1-0 lead when he scored for a third straight game, connecting at 6:57 of the second with his fourth goal.
John Tavares answered 44 seconds later with his 17th for the Islanders, and Thomas Vanek scored with 24.2 seconds remaining, but New York had a season-best, three-game winning streak broken.
The Hurricanes improved to 23-5-5 in the last 33 meetings with the Islanders and 16-2-4 in the past 22. Carolina is certainly not intimidated by Nassau Coliseum as the Hurricanes are 11-1-2 there in their past 14 visits.
"It's funny how it matches with team vs. team," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. "They've got a good hockey team and they're a good skating team. We kind of feel like that is our style, as well."
Khudobin improved to 4-0, including wins in back-to-back games.
Evgeni Nabokov stopped 27 shots for New York.
Carolina took its first lead when Andrew MacDonald had the puck taken away behind his net by Dwyer, who made a quick pass out front to Malhotra for the goal that left Nabokov shaking his head.
The edge later grew to 3-1 after another turnover by New York, this time in the neutral zone. The Hurricanes quickly transitioned to offence, and Jeff Skinner fired a shot that was stopped by Nabokov, but Sutter put in the rebound.
"We have some bad breakdowns," Tavares said. "We made it too easy for them. We didn't make them earn it."
Tavares finished a give-and-go with Vanek following a Carolina turnover to briefly get the Islanders even at 1.
New York had chances in the first as prized rookie Ryan Strome was denied on a good save by Khudobin during a power play. He threw his head back in frustration as he is still searching for his first NHL goal after 10 games.
Vanek's goal made it close, but it wasn't enough.
"At the end, when the score was 3-1, I knew they were going to come," Khudobin said. "They were shooting everything and everywhere."
Kyle Okposo, who scored the overtime winner on Thursday against Chicago, deftly darted and weaved through the Carolina zone with 2:41 left in the first. He got Khudobin down on his side, but fired a drive into the prone goalie's glove.
"We gave them all three of their goals," Okposo said. "We had a lot of chances, had our opportunities that's for sure. But you have to give credit to their goaltender."
NOTES: Okposo had a career-high, eight-game point streak snapped. Vanek has an eight-game point streak. ... Forward Riley Nash both missed their second straight game with injuries. ... The Hurricanes have outscored opponents 50-38 in the second period but have been outscored in the first and third. ... Skinner has 10 points in six games.