UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Tears of joy flowed in the eyes of Justin Peters on Saturday night.
Promoted from the American Hockey League after Cam Ward suffered an upper-body injury this week, the 23-year-old made 34 saves in his NHL debut as the Carolina Hurricanes skated away with a 3-1 victory against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Peters, a second-round draft choice of the Hurricanes (No. 38) in 2004, had spent his entire pro career, which began in 2006, in the minors. He played a good portion of the 2007-08 season with the ECHL's Florida Everblades before being promoted back to the AHL on a full-time basis last season. He was 18-13-2 with a 2.55 goals-against average in 34 games for Albany this season.
With his parents -- Jeff and Janice Peters -- and little brother Alex in the audience, Peters slammed the door all night long on the reeling Islanders, the lone blemish being Frans Nielsen's shorthanded goal midway through the second period.
"You work a long time … I've worked real hard for an opportunity like this," said Peters, who found out for sure after Friday's 4-3 win at Buffalo that he was getting the nod on Long Island. "It's real special. I believed it would come. Obviously, it was a long ways. It's crazy. Emotions are getting the best of me right now."
Remarkably, Peters and the Hurricanes (21-30-7) have trimmed the deficit for a playoff position to just 10 points despite a rocky start that featured one key injury after another. This night, though, was more about a young man who fought his way to the big time and made the most of the first opportunity handed to him.
"I'm so happy for him … it's such a huge day for any player," coach Paul Maurice said. "But it's completely different for a goaltender because he's playing the whole game. It's the one position that you go in and you have to be good for the team to win. He earned it. He made some really good saves. I'm real happy for him. He's worked hard for that chance."
New York (23-27-8) has lost seven in a row -- all in regulation -- and has scored only nine goals during the skid. The Islanders' power play was again non-existent as it went 0-for-5 and failed to generate many quality chances. Rick DiPietro made his seventh start since returning from knee surgery and finished with 22 saves.
"We spent a lot of time in the offensive zone," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. "At the end of the day, we're still coming up short. It's obviously a frustrating thing. We've just got to put it past us and try to get better tomorrow. You've got to park it and move on."
Jussi Jokinen gave Carolina a 1-0 lead at 14:32 of the opening period. Jokinen was the beneficiary of a confused DiPietro, who barely swatted at a loose puck, putting it right on Jokinen's stick for an easy tap-in. It was his 20th goal of the season.
"I've been given a good opportunity to play on the top line," Jokinen said. "That's been really helping me. I hope I can keep playing the same way."
Nielsen tied the game with a shorthanded goal at 9:25 of the second. Just 13 seconds after Mark Streit went off for roughing, Nielsen took a nice feed from behind the net by Blake Comeau and one-timed it past Peters for his eighth goal of the season.
Patrick Dwyer restored Carolina's lead with 4:24 remaining in the second period. With the teams at even strength, Brandon Sutter made a nice to play to get off a wraparound that Dwyer managed to swat past DiPietro with the shaft of his stick to make it 2-1. It was Dwyer's fifth goal of the season.
Comeau had a chance to tie the game for the Islanders in the first minute of the third period, but his breakaway chance was denied by Peters' left pad.
"It just happened real quick," Peters said. "He made a move and I just tried to cover up my five-hole as quick as possible. He didn't squeeze it through. I tried to treat it like any other play."
Joni Pitkanen added an empty-net goal with a minute remaining, although it was charged to DiPietro since he was heading for the bench when Pitkanen released his shot. It clinched a night Peters surely won't ever forget.
"It was a real gutsy effort," Peters said. "I can't thank them enough."
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter at: @BComptonNHL