RALEIGH, N.C. – The new season started with great expectations for the Islanders, and, finally, a sense of some normalcy with an 82-game schedule and full arenas. But it didn’t start with a cohesive effort.
"It was one of those first games where you saw a little bit of everything," captain Anders Lee said. "The puck was bouncing on us a few times. There were some moments where we could have been cleaner with the execution. The kind of things you see toward the beginning of the year that we can go look at and clean up pretty easily."
Mathew Barzal’s top line with a healthy Lee and Kyle Palmieri was dangerous all game. But the Islanders weren’t careful enough with the puck, strong enough defensively or good enough on special teams in a 6-3 loss to the Hurricanes on Thursday night before 18,680 at PNC Arena in the season opener to begin a franchise-record, 13-game road trip.
The Islanders were 0-for-3 and outshot 2-0 on the power play and didn’t provide enough support for goalie Ilya Sorokin (35 saves). Frederik Andersen stopped 25 shots in his Hurricanes’ debut.
"We had a couple of spurts where we did some good things," Brock Nelson said. "Special teams, you’d like to capitalize on the power play and get some momentum. I think everybody’s just fired up. You knew it was going to be tough. This is a tough building, a loud building. You’d like to come out with the win but you learn from some of the things you did tonight."
Like any coach, Barry Trotz is looking for the Islanders, who reached the NHL semifinals in each of the previous two, shortened NHL seasons, to set a tone quickly in establishing the type of hockey they hope to play. Translating that into early success on the road will be crucial since the Islanders’ first-ever game at the new, $1.1 billion UBS Arena at Belmont Park, won’t be until Nov. 20 against the Flames.
"Some of our execution, coming out of our zone, we didn’t execute there," Trotz said. "I thought we handled a couple of their spurts and then we had a couple of spurts. Really, the fifth goal took us out of the game. We were sort of hanging around. We took an offensive zone penalty. We don’t need to do that.
"But, overall, I didn’t think we had enough guys on their A-game."
Teuvo Teravainen ripped a power-play one-timer from the right circle for a 5-3 lead at 11:36 of the third period after Oliver Wahlstrom was called for holding defensemen Jaccob Slavin in the offensive zone. Andrei Svechnikov added a power-play empty-netter.
Barzal gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead at 7:23, but that was after the clock was rewound from a stoppage at 9:30 to review the play.
Svechnikov tied it at 1-1 at 9:15 – the second, 9:15 – as he got to the right post to tip Teravainen’s shot. That became 2-1 at 13:57 as Slavin’s shot through traffic deflected in off Jesper Fast.
Nelson’s 28th career goal in October – Brocktober – tied it at 2-2 just 52 seconds into the second period as he swept to the crease. But Jordan Martinook converted Casey Cizikas’ turnover into a 3-2 lead at 6:30 of the second period and Nino Niederreiter made that 4-2 at 11:28 on a goal that was confirmed via video review then upheld after Trotz challenged for goalie interference.
Lee, showing all night he was completely healthy after a torn right anterior cruciate ligament ended his last season on March 11, won a puck battle at the top of the crease to bring the Islanders within 4-3 at 14:20 of the second period.