Sanguinetti, who has battled injuries throughout his career, had just one assist in 20 NHL games before Sunday. He has played most of the past three seasons with AHL Charlotte.
"That was a feeling I can't even describe right now," said Sanguinetti as he tucked the puck into his red Hurricanes equipment bag. "To finally score in the NHL and have it be a game-winner is incredible. And I'm glad I scored it in New York."
The Hurricanes are happy, too, as their injury-hampered squad was able to win for the second time on Long Island in 13 days. Carolina was without injured defenseman Joni Pitkanen and Tim Gleason as well as Jeff Skinner, their second-leading scorer who is out with a concussion.
"This was a good win because we didn't quit and played a solid third period," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. "I feel great for Bobby because tonight was his strongest game for us yet. He's a good skilled player who moves the puck well, and he was solid on both ends of the ice."
Alexander Semin completed the scoring with an empty-net goal with 30 seconds left. He also had two assists.
John Tavares and Matt Moulson had given the Islanders a 2-0 lead midway through the first period, and New York seemed on its way to a third straight victory.
But Eric and Jordan Staal scored 45 seconds apart late in the second period to tie it at 2.
The Hurricanes (9-7-1) had only two shots on goal through most of a listless second period, before Eric Staal scored his team-leading ninth goal on a power play at 18:28.
The Carolina captain knocked the puck out of midair with his stick past Poulin, who was making his first start of the season after being recalled from AHL Bridgeport on Saturday.
Just 45 seconds later, Jordan Staal tied it 2-2 with his fourth of the season. His snap shot from between the circles beat a screened Poulin.
"The first goal on the power play was a big one," Eric Staal said. "Then to have Jordan tie it right away was also huge. And our third period was strong. This was key for us."
Sanguinetti's goal was an NHL-leading 34th in the third period for Carolina.
The Islanders (8-10-1) continued to struggle at home, where they are an NHL-worst 2-7.
"I don't know why we play differently at home," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "I can't understand why we were so flat in the third period."
Moulson opened the scoring with his 10th goal of the season off a pass from behind the net from Brad Boyes. Tavares, who assisted on the goal, has been on the ice for 70 consecutive goals by his linemate, dating to Nov. 17, 2010.
Tavares scored his 13th goal -- sharing the league lead with Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos -- off an assist from Moulson at 12:25. The speedy center swept down the left side before whipping the puck over the left shoulder of goalie Cam Ward.
Tavares and Moulson have combined for 23 goals, the most of any NHL teammates this season.
The 22-year-old Poulin was 15-14-3 with a 3.22 goals against average in 32 games for Bridgeport. He was recalled to replace Rick DiPietro, who was demoted after an 0-3 start.
Poulin made numerous strong saves among his 14 stops in the first period, including glove saves on Jussi Jokinen and Ryan Murphy. His last two NHL wins were against Carolina -- a 5-2 victory last Jan. 31 in Raleigh and a 4-3 home win last Feb. 18.
The game opened a seven-game homestand for the Islanders, their sixth in team history. ... The Islanders will visit Raleigh on April 23 to complete the season series. ... Defenseman Radek Martinek made his season debut for the Islanders. It was his first NHL appearance since Oct. 21, 2011, when he sustained a concussion while playing for Columbus. ... Moulson, who played in his 265th straight game for the Islanders, hasn't missed a game since joining them before the 2009-10 season.
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
Arena: Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum Location: Uniondale, New York
Referees: Brian Pochmara, Wes McCauley Linesmen: Anthony Sericolo, John Grandt
Attendance: 10,048 (61.7% full)
Team Stat Comparison
Power Play Goals
Power Play Opportunities
Shots on Goal
Matt Moulson (10)
Assists: Brad Boyes, John Tavares
John Tavares (13)
Assist: Matt Moulson
Eric Staal (9)
(Power Play) Assists: Alexander Semin, Jiri Tlusty
Jordan Staal (4)
Assists: Alexander Semin, Justin Faulk
Bobby Sanguinetti (1)
Assists: Patrick Dwyer, Jordan Staal