Brock Nelson's career-high four-point game (two goals, two assists) propelled the New York Islanders to a 5-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes in their season opener on Friday night in Raleigh, NC.
“I got a couple of fortunate bounces,” Nelson said. “A shot off the leg and a couple nice plays by John [Tavares] and I was fortunate to be on the last end of it. I think we did a lot of good things tonight. It was a good road win for us to start it off.”
While the second-year forward was a force on the ice, a trio of new Islanders contributed to the team’s dominant win over their Metropolitan Division rivals. Johnny Boychuk had a three-point night (one goal, two assists), Jaroslav Halak made 21 saves and Mikhail Grabovski scored in his Islanders debut.
Boychuk and Nelson scored goals 1:48 apart to give the Islanders a 2-0 lead at the first intermission. Boychuk showed Islanders fans the slap shot that earned him the nickname ‘Johnny Rocket,’ blasting a drive through Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward on a two-man advantage.
The Islanders continued to apply pressure against the Hurricanes penalty kill before Nelson’s goal at 18:54. While the goal was a direct result of the power play, Hurricanes defenseman Jay Harrison stepped out of the box just as Nelson beat Ward off a cross-ice feed from John Tavares, so the goal was officially credited as even strength and the Islanders power play finished the game two-for-three.
“I thought we did some good things,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “Overall I was pleased with the effort. We have some guys now that have tremendous shots from the point. It opens up top, but also down low. It was good to see the puck movement. It was a game of special teams.”
Nelson scored his second goal – the Islanders second power-play goal – the hard way, deflecting a Boychuk slap shot off his knee and past Ward 7:38 into the second period.
“The puck hit me a little above the shin guard. [The mark] will be there for a while, but it’ll last on paper,” Nelson said.
Tavares picked up the second assist on the play and finished the game with three assists in his first game since Feb. 8.
The Hurricanes got on the board 1:25 in the third period, as Nathan Gerbe deflected a Justin Faulk point shot past Halak. Gerbe’s shot bounced off the blue paint and just crossed over the line before Travis Hamonic could swat it out.
Grabovski re-established the three-goal lead 5:11 into the third period, burying a feed from Ryan Strome past Ward.
Hamonic effectively iced the game with a wrist shot at 12:19. Chris Terry and Eric Staal scored two late goals for the Hurricanes.
Halak picked up his first win as an Islander and was sharp early, holding off the Hurricanes first-period momentum. Ward also made 21 saves, but the Islanders beat the Canes goalie for the second time in as many tries, dating back to last season.
“He was good,” Capuano said of Halak. “Especially in the first, he made some big saves, some grade-A opportunities that could have changed the outcome, or at least given them the momentum and a surge for Carolina. That’s what he’s paid to do.”
Griffin Reinhart played first career NHL game. The Islanders 2011 first-round pick skated 16:51 TOI and recorded a hit and a blocked shot.
The Islanders and Hurricanes head to Long Island to finish their back-to-back set Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum. Puck drop for the Islanders home opener is at 7 p.m.