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Islanders beat Carolina in final home opener at Nassau Coliseum

John Tavares of the Islanders celebrates his first-period

John Tavares of the Islanders celebrates his first-period goal against the Carolina Hurricanes with teammate Johnny Boychuk and Kyle Okposo at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Maybe the Islanders should threaten to run away from home more often. Saturday night, on the occasion of their 43rd and final Nassau Coliseum season-opening game, Long Island's only big-league sports team experienced an unusual amount of love from a full house of full-throated partisan fans.

The pregame parking lot was overrun with tailgating, Islander-jersey wearing supporters, and the old joint was jumping from the opening faceoff. Better than all that, for the spectators and their team, the Islanders defeated the Carolina Hurricanes, 4-3, to keep their perfect season alive.

OK, they are only 2-0. But still.

With Chad Johnson playing his first game in goal for the Islanders, they outshot Carolina, 31-24, though there were some tense moments in the final two minutes.

Overall, the throwback atmosphere had far more a feel of the team's perennial playoff days of the 1980s than of the team's Coliseum debut in 1972, when the expansion Islanders hardly had expanded their talents to an NHL level.

That was so long ago that Islanders coach Jack Capuano was a 6-year-old hockey player in his Cranston, R.I., home. He claimed not to have a favorite team then, though he acknowledged "following" the Boston Bruins.

Surely the then-Stanley Cup champion Bruins were more attractive than the team that the fledgling World Hockey Association put in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1972, for the first of only seven WHA seasons.

The Whalers, by the way, were absorbed into the NHL in 1979 and went south in 1997 to become the Carolina Hurricanes. Small world.

Anyway, back to the present. After sharpening their knives Friday night against Carolina in Raleigh with a 5-3 victory, the Islanders never trailed Saturday night and took the lead for good on second-period goals by Brock Nelson -- already his third -- and Josh Bailey.

With the thoroughly involved fans, seemingly imported from the glory days of four consecutive Stanley Cups, repeatedly breaking into lusty "Let's go, Islanders" chants, Nelson's power-play score came at 6:47 of the second on a deflection of Johnny Boychuk's hard shot from the blue line.

And Bailey, just 3.6 seconds before the end of the period, converted Frans Nielsen's pass to the doorstep from the right wing.

Jiri Tlusty capped off a hat trick for Carolina with just under five minutes to play with an unassisted goal after the Islanders had stormed the Carolina net for long minutes, including a shot off the post.

Not quite four minutes into the festivities, the Islanders had taken their first lead when John Tavares whipped a shot past Carolina goalie Anton Khudobin off a cross-ice pass from Nelson. Travis Hamonic's hooking penalty at 13:37 led to Tlusty's equalizing goal on a Carolina power play, with Tlusty sailing through the slot to knock in John-Michael Liles' pass.

A minute later, Tavares set up a couldn't-miss open-net tap in for Cory Conacher by gobbling up a rebound and whipping a pass to Conacher, storming down the left wing.

But another Carolina man-advantage score -- also by Tlusty after Matt Martin was sent to the sin bin for tripping -- tied it, 2-2, with only 1:04 left in the period.

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