UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Carolina coach Paul Maurice said he couldn’t ease in goalie Justin Peters like other rookies.
But the 23-year-old Peters didn’t need much assistance in his NHL debut, turning aside 34 shots to lead the Hurricanes to a 3-1 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday night.
“I was so happy for him,” Maurice said. “It’s the one position where you have to go in and be good for the team to win. He didn’t get lucky. He didn’t get any breaks and had to fight for the puck. He’s worked hard for that chance.”
Jussi Jokinen, Patrick Dwyer and Joni Pitkanen scored as Carolina salvaged a split of a four-game road trip, winning games on back-to-back nights against Buffalo and New York.
Frans Nielsen’s short-handed goal in the second was the only offence the Islanders could muster against Peters, who made 11 saves in the third.
“I was trying not to think too much and keep it simple as possible,” said Peters. “It was a real gutsy effort in front and I can’t thank them (his teammates) enough.”
Pitkanen scored into an empty net as Rick DiPietro was trying to get to the bench with a minute left.
The Islanders have scored just nine goals during a seven-game losing streak, their longest since last season’s eight-game slide from Jan. 2-19.
“We spent a lot of time in the offensive zone but at the end of the day, we’re still coming up short,” Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. “We’ll try and put it past us and try and get better tomorrow.”
Before the game, Hurricanes officials confirmed starting goalie Cam Ward will see a back specialist Monday. Ward missed his second straight game after his back stiffened up on a flight from Calgary to Buffalo.
Carolina rallied around its young goalie to win for the sixth time in eight games. Maurice said his club will be happy to head home after playing seven of the last 10 games on the road.
“I just went in there and said this bus is leaving in 10 minutes and whoever is not on it stays in the hotel,” Maurice said with a laugh. “Tonight wasn’t a thing of beauty but it was a hell of a win with a young goalie in there.”
Jokinen scored his 20th goal with just over five minutes left in the first, tying Eric Staal for the team lead.
“I’ve been getting good opportunities to play on the top line and the power play, so that’s been helping me,” Jokinen said.
Jokinen slammed a shot from the slot after Pitkanen’s centring pass deflected off DiPietro’s stick and bounced free in front of the crease. The winger has three goals in four games against the Islanders this season.
“It’s a tough rebound for a goalie,” Jokinen said. “It’s coming stick-side and he doesn’t know what’s going on the other side. I was lucky I was right there. I’ll take those.”
Matt Moulson’s right-post tip 1:42 into the second beat Peters. But the officials waved off the goal, saying the whistle blew just prior to puck crossing the goal-line.
Nielsen tied it almost nine minutes later, ending a 12-game goal-less streak with a short-handed goal.
New York built a 35-25 shot advantage yet still is looking for its first win since Jan. 21 against Florida.
“We need a spark, something to turn it around in a hurry,” DiPietro said. “You can’t say we’re not working hard. At some point the pucks around the crease will have to go in.”
Carolina regrouped and went ahead for good when Dwyer pushed in a shot from the left post with 4:24 left in the second. Zach Boychuk picked up the secondary assist and now has points in two straight games since being recalled from the AHL.
Jokinen cracked the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his five-year career and has five goals in his last six games.
“He’s been finding a way to get it to the net,” Maurice said. “Of the three forward positions, right wing is probably his least favourite, but he doesn’t mind playing it.”
NOTES: Carolina returns home for three games before the Olympic break and doesn’t play on the road again until March 2 against Toronto. … Staal saw his 11-game point streak end. New York’s power-play unit is just 14 for 100 at home this season for the NHL’s worst scoring percentage.