Then the third period came, and everything changed.
Alexander Semin netted his 200th NHL goal, and Jiri Tlusty scored twice and had two assists in the decisive final frame for the Hurricanes, who overcame three deficits and a poor night of penalty-killing to send the Islanders to their fifth straight loss, 6-4 on Monday.
Carolina was still smarting from a 0-4 mark against the Islanders last season. New York seemed in line to get back to its winning ways, but it wasn't to be.
"We controlled the play well down low. We were smart with our decisions," said Hurricanes captain Eric Staal, who extended his point streak to eight games with a goal and assist in the third. "This was a good test for us, and we owed them from last season. This one felt very good."
Not so much for the Islanders, who finally figured out their power-play woes with four man-advantage goals, but generated no offense at even strength. After a 4-2-1 start, New York is 4-7-1 and 1-5 at home.
"We're the type of team that needs all 20 guys, and I don't think we got that tonight," coach Jack Capuano said. "We've got to find a way 5-on-5 to generate some offense. Our power play was good, but it's not going to be there every day."
Semin got help on his milestone goal as his shot from the right-wing boards hit the helmet of Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic and caromed off the post past goalie Rick DiPietro at 5:33 of the third period.
Carolina tied it 3-3 just 30 seconds into the third when Semin fed a pass to Tlusty for his first goal. Eric Staal scored at 9:09 to make it 5-3, and Tlusty added an empty-netter with 10.3 seconds remaining to give him a four-point night.
"I felt lucky to be scoring because many guys played well," Tlusty said. "It doesn't matter who gets the goals as long as we win. We definitely owed them from last year and we talked about that coming in."
DiPietro made just his second start of the season for New York and was in line for his first win since December 2011 before things fell apart.
Frans Nielsen, John Tavares and Matt Moulson all gave New York leads it couldn't hold. DiPietro finished with 25 saves, but heard derisive chants and sarcastic cheers when he made stops in the third. It was the first appearance in a home game for the oft-injured goalie, who has lost his starting job to Evgeni Nabokov, since Nov. 23, 2011.
Moulson brought the Islanders within 5-4 by netting his second power-play goal of the game with 8:28 left. New York scored on its first four advantages after a 0-for-22 drought the previous four games. The run ended soon after when the Islanders couldn't produce the tying goal on chance No. 5.
"The harder you work, the luckier you get," Capuano said. "You can't get frustrated. You can't get down on one another. We've got a good bunch of guys. Adversity is something that you go through in life, and right now we're going through it."
Tavares cashed in New York's second power-play goal when he flipped a shot over Ward at 5:23 of the second period for his seventh goal.
Before the goal announcement could be completed, the Hurricanes tied it again. Skinner matched Tavares' goal total when Jordan Staal found him in the slot for a shot that beat DiPietro between the pads at 5:52.
But then the Islanders' suddenly potent power play clicked for the third time. Brad Boyes fed a cross-zone pass to Moulson, who was alone near the right post. He went down to a knee and pumped a shot past Ward at 7:46 for his fifth goal, but first at home.
New York survived three trips to the penalty box in the second period, including two in the opening 1:18.
Nielsen opened the scoring off a crisp feed in front by Josh Bailey, who recorded his first assist of the season in his second game. Bailey quickly moved the puck from the boards in front to Nielsen, who slid a shot past Ward at 2:48 of the first.
That was the first man-advantage tally against Carolina in four games following 11 straight kills.
Ward was otherwise strong in the period in making 11 saves. Carolina generated only six shots at the other end, but got one to pinball off sticks and a skate to get even.
Jamie McBain fired a drive from the top of the right circle that hit Islanders forward David Ullstrom in the circle on its way to the net. The puck then struck Wallace's skate and was redirected into the net for his first of the season at 13:42. A brief video review was held before the goal was confirmed.
"There were some crazy bounces," DiPietro said.
The last time the Hurricanes allowed four power-play goals and won was Oct. 28, 2005, against Philadelphia. New York hadn't scored four power-play goals and lost since Oct. 14, 1978 -- 10-7 at Toronto. ... The Islanders are 4-2-1 when they score a power-play goal. ... Nabokov had started seven straight games. ... McBain was a healthy scratch in Carolina's loss at Philadelphia on Saturday. ... Wallace's past two goals have been scored against the Islanders. ... Lubomir Visnovsky earned an assist on Moulson's second goal for his first point with the Islanders in his second game.