A gut check against the Stanley Cup champions gave the Islanders an early-season win they couldn't let slip away.
Rick DiPietro started slowly in his return from a groin injury, but shook off the rust enough to backstop a 4-3 overtime victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night.
Tom Poti's power-play goal 23 seconds into overtime was the difference, capping a rally after New York squandered a two-goal advantage in the third.
"Last year, you can count how many games we lost blowing a third-period lead," said DiPietro, who made 37 saves. "It was somewhere between 12 and 15, and those lost points cost us a playoff spot."
Poti, a defenceman who assisted on two other goals, snapped a shot from inside the blue line that passed through a screen by Mike Sillinger and found the net behind John Grahame.
It gave DiPietro his first win of the season following an 0-3 start and a four-game layoff.
Carolina suffered its second straight tough loss and concluded a season-high, seven-game road trip with a 3-4 mark. The Hurricanes took a while to find their legs following a fast-paced 5-4 defeat at Buffalo on Friday night, but they nearly pulled this one out with three third-period goals.
"One that we gave away, definitely," said Hurricanes forward Justin Williams, who scored twice. At this point last year we found ways to win these games."
After Jason Blake and Mike York staked the Islanders to a 2-0 lead, the Hurricanes stormed back to take the lead. Williams scored short-handed and power-play goals 1:50 apart, and captain Rod Brind'Amour made it 3-2 with 5:26 left in regulation.
Carolina seemed to get a spark after coach Peter Laviolette, the former Islanders' bench boss, called a timeout 4:18 into the third period.
But the Hurricanes couldn't keep the pressure on, and the lead didn't stand up as Sillinger tied it for the Islanders with a power-play goal at 16:50.
"It was pretty wild," DiPietro said. "We knew after they took that timeout, they were going to come out flying. That (short-handed) goal was kind of a momentum changer.
"Give Sillie credit. His goal gave us a boost of energy. It's just nice to get the win and we absolutely needed the two points."
Sillinger's goal came during a two-man advantage. The Islanders basically had four power-play goals as York scored just two seconds after Kevyn Adams left the penalty box.
"We need to learn how to kill a penalty and execute," Williams said. "We want to initiate and dictate the game and we didn't do that for the first two periods. It was there for us to win."
DiPietro, playing at home in the regular season for the first time since signing a 15-year deal with the Islanders, fought the puck early on but regrouped in the final two periods. He couldn't be faulted much for the Hurricanes' late uprising that nearly cost New York a victory.
"Ricky played a great game," Sillinger said. "Our team showed a lot of character. My job in the room is to create excitement when we're down."
DiPietro hadn't played since yielding four goals on 40 in shots at Los Angeles.
"It's funny when you're out for a week how fast the pace was. I had to get used to that again," DiPietro said. "The defence did a hell of a job in front of me clearing out other people."
While New York celebrated this win, Carolina defenceman Mike Commodore watched in dismay from the penalty box. He looked up at the scoreboard to see that 34 seconds still remained on his holding infraction that decided the game.
"I had no clue. I didn't even know there was a penalty," Commodore said.
Grahame, a U.S. Olympic teammate of Blake and DiPietro at the Turin Games, made his second start since joining Carolina in the off-season.
Until the Islanders' rally he was enjoying a much better performance than his Hurricanes debut when he allowed six goals on 31 shots in a 6-3 loss at Florida on Oct. 11.
He gave up four goals on 25 shots.
Notes: Mike Dunham went 2-0-2 while filling in for DiPietro. ... Hurricanes G Cam Ward, the MVP of last season's playoffs, served as the backup after starting four straight games. He gave up all five goals in Friday's loss at Buffalo.