Saturday, October 11, 2014
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Islanders start strong with win over Hurricanes

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[October 11, 2014]  RALEIGH, N.C. -- Fans of the New York Islanders have likely lost count of the rebuilding projects over the last decade. Few, if any, have worked.

There is optimism that this season's new-look team, featuring eight fresh faces, may take hold following an impressive 5-3 season-opening victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night.

Center Brock Nelson scored twice and added two assists while center John Tavares and newly-acquired defenseman Johnny Boychuk added three points each as the Islanders spoiled the debut of Hurricanes coach Bill Peters.

The game wasn't really close as the Islanders built a 5-1 lead before Carolina closed the gap with three third-period goals.

"This is a big starting point for us, the new faces in the locker room contributed in a big way and that's why they are here," Nelson said. "When we have more than a couple guys on the score sheet we're going to be a pretty good hockey club."

"It feels good to get a win, but even better the way things happened for me," said Boychuk. "You know, to contribute. It makes you feel that much more comfortable."

The Boston Bruins dealt Boychuk six days ago for draft picks in a salary cap move, and the former Stanley Cup champion paid immediate dividends for his new club, scoring 13 seconds after the Islanders went on a 5-on-3 power play late in the first period. Nelson added his first goal less than two minutes later, just seconds after Carolina's second penalty expired as New York grabbed a 2-0 lead.

"We had a good week in practice on the power play. We worked hard on it," Tavares said. "Our coaching staff does an excellent job with our details and framework. There are a just a lot of little things that go into it, and Johnny came in and fit in right away. We just want to take the shots when they are there and we obviously have the guys to do that now."

"Boychuk opens us so much for us up top, it's so nice to have that shooting threat," added Nelson. "It might draw some guys off of us and open more things up. He definitely benefits our power play."

Nelson, a first-round pick in 2010 who scored 14 goals in his rookie season last year, made it 3-0 with 12:22 left in the second when a shot from the point from Boychuk went off his knee and past Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward.

"Last year was a good learning curve for me," Nelson said. "This year is a little bit different, knowing what to expect and being confident in all areas. If I'm put out there in different situations you have execute and believe in the guys in this locker room. We're all stressing believing in each other."

Carolina couldn't manage much offense in this one without two of its top four forwards -- Jeff Skinner (concussion) and Jordan Staal (broken leg) out with injuries. Skinner led the Hurricanes with 33 goals last season but went down in the last preseason game with his third concession in the last three seasons. Staal, arguably the team's best two-way center, suffered his injury Sept. 23 and is out 3-4 months.

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Peters, a former assistant with the Detroit Red Wings, vowed to improve one of the NHL's worst power plays when he was hired to replace Kirk Muller, but the Hurricanes had the man advantage in the first two minutes of each of the first two periods and couldn't mount any attack against Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak until left winger Nathan Gerbe scored with the extra man 1:25 into the third to make it 3-1.

Less than four minutes later, center Mikhail Grabovski added New York's fourth goal and defenseman Travis Hamonic scored with 7:41 left to push the lead to 5-1. Nelson added assists on New York's final two goals.

Left winger Chris Terry and center Eric Staal added late goals for the Hurricanes to round out the scoring.

Ward allowed five goals on just 26 shots.

"I always look at the team in front of the goaltender before I look at the goaltender," Peters said of Ward's performance. "I thought he was fine. I thought we broke down too many times unnecessarily and any time that happens good players are going to make you pay and that's what happened."

NOTES: The Islanders' 23-man roster featured eight new players, including rookie D Griffin Reinhart, the fourth overall pick in 2012. He played close to 17 minutes... D Ron Hainsey, who was named one of three alternate captains for Carolina, hasn't logged a minute in the playoffs in 673 career games. ... C Victor Rask and C Patrick Brown made their NHL debuts for the Hurricanes. ... After allowing the second-most goals in the Eastern Conference, the Islanders begin the season with two new goalies -- Jaroslav Halak and Chad Johnson -- who have a combined record of 165-91-35 after Friday's win by Halak.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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