RALEIGH, N.C. - For a night, all the moves the Islanders made in the offseason worked. Things fell into place, the new goaltender made a couple large stops early, the new defenseman unleashed a few big shots from the point on the power play and the new forward (one of them, anyway) scored a key goal to stem any opposition comeback.
For a night, all was right with the Islanders. Their 5-3 win was more commanding than the final score indicated, with the Isles taking a 5-1 lead with 7:41 to go before Carolina netted a couple of late goals.
The season opener Friday night with eight new players out of 20 dressed was a resounding success.
"For a first game, yeah, it wasn't too bad," said Johnny Boychuk, who was acquired from the Bruins last Saturday, spent a week practicing and produced the game's first goal, a slapper from the point on a five-on-three advantage 17:06 into the first. "We did some good things. I didn't think that first one would come that quick."
Brock Nelson scored the first of his two goals just 1:48 later. John Tavares had the second of his three assists with a threaded pass to Nelson in the slot and Nelson snapped a wrist shot over Cam Ward.
Boychuk had an assist on the third Isles goal, scored by Nelson at 7:38 of the second period. "Having that big shot at the point can really open some things up," said Nelson, who will have a bruise above his left knee for a long while after he used that leg to accidentally deflect Boychuk's shot that gave the Isles a 3-0 lead.
With Nelson's two goals and four points, the 22-year-old center had the most productive game of his young career.
Perhaps none of that dominating special-teams play would have happened without the early play of Jaroslav Halak, who also had a memorable Islanders debut. With Ryan Strome (two assists) off for a slashing minor just 1:51 into the game, Halak had to come up with a big stop on Eric Staal and then a rebound try by Victor Rask from in close in the game's first minutes.
Halak was there a few minutes later to stop Jay McClement off a rush, a terrific play where Halak was moving laterally to his left and flashed his right pad to stop McClement's shot.
"I just tried to get there and stop it," said Halak, who made 21 saves and was more upset about the two power-play goals the Isles allowed in the third than happy with the win. "We had a few scrambles in the first, but we were able to keep the puck out of the net. That was a big key for us."
After the Canes' Nathan Gerbe deflected one past Halak 1:25 into the third to make it 3-1, Carolina started to press, only to have Strome do some good work behind the Canes net to feed Mikhail Grabovski for his first Isles goal in his debut. Travis Hamonic got the fifth goal.
The Islanders have little time to enjoy this one, with the Canes coming to Nassau Coliseum for the Isles' home opener Saturday night. They also don't want to feel too good about themselves, knowing that they've won in October the past few seasons only to let down in November and December.
"It's one game," Tavares cautioned. "We don't want to fall in love with it too much."