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Nelson, Islanders ruin Peters' debut with Hurricanes

by Kurt Dusterberg

RALEIGH, N.C. -- If the opening game is an indication, the new-look New York Islanders have plenty to look forward to this season.

In their New York debuts, defenseman Johnny Boychuk had three points, forward Mikhail Grabovski scored a goal and goaltender Jaroslav Halak stopped 21 shots to help the Islanders to a 5-3 win against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on Friday.

Forward Brock Nelson, in his second season with the Islanders, had two goals and two assists. New York climbed to a 5-1 lead in the third period before surrendering two late goals.

"The new faces in here contributed and that's why they're here," Nelson said. "If we can get more than a couple guys on the scoresheet, we're going to be a pretty good hockey club."

Islanders captain John Tavares continued his dominance against the Hurricanes with three assists; in 19 games, he has 13 goals and 25 points.

After a slow start to the first period, the Islanders needed 13 seconds of a 44-second, two-man advantage to open the scoring. Kyle Okposo fed a pass to Boychuk, who connected on a one-timer at 17:06. Boychuk was acquired in a trade from the Boston Bruins last Saturday.

"It feels good just to get a win tonight and contribute," Boychuk said. "The way that happened, it's even better. It makes you feel a lot more comfortable to just help the team win."

New York scored again one second after the expiration of the second penalty when Tavares laced a backdoor pass through the legs of defenseman Justin Faulk to Nelson, who sent a wrist shot over the glove of Carolina goaltender Cam Ward.

New York extended its lead to 3-0 on Nelson's second goal at 7:38 of the second period. With Tim Gleason off for roughing, Boychuk's shot deflected off Nelson, who was skating through the slot.

"It hit me a little bit above the shin guard, so it will be there for a little while, but it will last on paper," Nelson said with a smile. "That's all that matters."

Halak, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Washington Capitals, was sharp in the second period, finding Brad Malone's hard shot through traffic from the top of the right circle. The goaltender's best save came late in the period when he slid to the left post to stop Andrej Sekera's redirect.

"They were playing their home opener and their fans were behind them, and we just wanted to win the game and get the two points," Halak said. "Everyone was excited and waiting for this moment the whole summer."

Carolina forward Nathan Gerbe scored a power-play goal on a deflection off his skate 1:25 into the third period, but the Islanders countered with two more.

Grabovski, signed as a free agent, pushed the lead to 4-1 after Ryan Strome won a battle along the end wall and fed the puck to the front of the net, where Grabovski lifted a shot to the far post at 5:11. Travis Hamonic made it 5-1 at 12:19, taking a pass from Nelson and beating Ward to the far post.

Hurricanes forward Chris Terry scored on a one-timer from the right circle at 14:20, and Eric Staal found the top shelf on a power play with 1:34 remaining.

Carolina's loss spoiled the NHL coaching debut of Bill Peters, who spent the past three seasons as an assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings.

"The guys did a good job at times," Peters said. "I thought we were inconsistent and we put the puck on the wall in the [defensive] zone unnecessarily too many times, making it harder than it needed to be."

Carolina forwards Jordan Staal (broken leg) and Jeff Skinner (concussion) are out indefinitely. The injuries opened the door for Victor Rask and Patrick Brown, who each made his NHL debut.

Ward started in goal for Carolina coming off a disappointing season when Anton Khudobin took over the starting job. Peters wasn't about to pin the loss on Ward, who made 21 saves.

"I always look at the team in front of the goaltender before I look at the goaltender," Peters said. "I thought he was fine. We broke down too many times unnecessarily, and anytime that happens, good players are going to make you pay."

With two power-play goals, the Islanders clicked in a key phase of the game.

"We just want to take the shots when we're there, and we've got guys who can make plays and read off that," Tavares said. "But we can't get complacent. It's one game and teams are going to play us hard and try to shut us down, so that's the challenge to us, to keep it going."

The teams play again Saturday in the final home opener for the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.

"Obviously we didn't want to give up three goals in the third period, but we have to learn from it," Halak said. "Everybody worked hard. Now we've got it behind us and [have] 81 left."

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