RALEIGH, N.C. - Eighteen games, or roughly a month and a half: That's how long it had been since a puck off Brock Nelson's stick found the back of the net.
So when his wrist shot skittered past the Carolina Hurricanes' Anton Khudobin at 6:58 of the second period, it was a cleansing of sorts. Finally, the man who scored 14 goals in the first three months of the season and then only one after that could put that ugly stretch behind him. And, once the Isles disposed of the Hurricanes, 4-1, at PNC Arena, they could put Monday's ugly loss behind them, too.
Rangers? What Rangers?
It may have taken an uncommon cast of characters, but the Islanders rebounded nicely Tuesday night -- getting contributions from Nelson, playing on the fourth line in place of an injured Casey Cizikas; backup Chad Johnson in goal; and a positively revitalized-looking Michael Grabner, who scored in his first game since Feb. 7 after suffering an upper-body injury.
Oh, John Tavares scored, too, but we're used to that.
"It was pretty nice," Nelson said about ending his drought. "I've had chances before but I haven't capitalized . . . You just continue to play and every time you get a chance, you try to bury it, whether it goes in or not."
The Isles got on the board at 17:06 of the first period -- 24 seconds into their first power play -- when Frans Nielson took a feed from Tavares and wristed a shot that bounced off of Anders Lee, who corralled the puck with his stick and squeaked it over the line on the backhand for the 1-0 lead.
Then Nelson struck in the second for his first goal since Jan. 4. Planted near the crease, Colin McDonald got into a tuffle with Tim Gleason in front of the net and Nelson took advantage, taking Matt Martin's feed from behind the goal and slapping it past Khudobin, partially blocked by the sideshow.
"He's been playing really well away from the puck," coach Jack Capuano said of Nelson. "When things aren't going well offensively you want to play without a puck . . . He found a way to pop into the offensive zone play and the puck had eyes for him. It's good to see him rewarded over these last four five weeks."
Grabner's breakaway goal -- making up for the breakaway attempt missed earlier in the game -- made it 3-0 midway through the third period.
But the Hurricanes, who had been positively stymied by Johnson, who made 37 saves in his second straight quality game, finally struck at 11:14 of the third period when Jiri Tlusty converted a behind-the-net feed from Eric Staal.
The scares kept on coming. A little over two minutes later, it looked to be a repeat of the Rangers game, as Nathan Gerbe swatted in another goal over Johnson's shoulder. Gerbe, though, was called for hitting the puck with a high stick and the goal was disallowed, all but sealing the Hurricane's fate. Tavares' empty-netter with about four minutes left made it a certainty.
"The more I can play, the better I'm going to play," said Johnson, who came into the contest with 13 starts, a 3.33 goals against average and an .873 save percentage. "Giving Jaro Halak rest for the playoffs is big for the team, and I think I've found my game . . . I think I've had more consistency."
Notes & quotes: The Islanders placed Cizikas on injured reserve with a lower body injury he suffered in Monday's loss. Grabner was taken off the list in a corresponding move and showed no ill effects from the time off. "I want to put it behind me," the injury-prone Grabner said. "I want to try to stay healthy to get my game where it needs to be . . . it's been tough."