RALEIGH, N.C. - Even as the lead quickly grew to four goals, Matt Martin and the New York Islanders never felt comfortable.
It turned out they needed each of those goals — plus one more — to finally beat the Carolina Hurricanes.
Colin McDonald had two goals and an assist, and Martin also scored twice for the New York Islanders, who held on for a 5-4 victory on Tuesday night.
"You could just tell it was going to be a bit of a crazy game," Martin said. "Obviously, you never want to give up a 4-0 lead but we held on and found a way to win."
McDonald scored both of his goals in New York's four-goal first period. Cal Clutterbuck and Martin also scored in the burst that produced four goals in a span of 7:15.
A combined 20 players had a point in this matchup of the bottom two teams in the Metropolitan Division.
"We're not going to make the playoffs this year, but guys are fighting for jobs for next year," McDonald said.
Andrei Loktionov had a goal and an assist, Jeff Skinner and Alexander Semin each scored power-play goals, and Nathan Gerbe added a goal for Carolina, which fell to 5-10 since the Olympic break.
Cam Ward stopped six shots but allowed three goals before he was replaced by Anton Khudobin 6:12 in. Khudobin made 21 saves.
Anders Nilsson stopped 24 shots for the Islanders, who are 13-4-1 in their last 18 road games and have won three of four overall.
Carolina's best chance to force overtime came when rookie Elias Lindholm drew a holding penalty on Kevin Czuczman with 4:48 left. But Nilsson caught Semin's knuckling wrister with 2:55 to play.
This game was a fitting metaphor for an inconsistent season for the seventh-place Hurricanes — who were both bad enough to fall into a 4-0 hole against the last-place Islanders, yet good enough to come back.
"The effort and the preparation has got to be better," veteran defenceman Jay Harrison said. "There's no excuse and there's no secret recipe. That's the bottom line. That's the only way."
Skinner started the rally 9 seconds into a delay-of-game penalty on Johan Sundstrom, snapping the puck past Nilsson at 12:38 of the first. Loktionov made it a two-goal game by beating the goalie from a tough angle 2:28 later.
When Semin struck from the wing on another power play 2:42 into the second to make it 4-3, that deep deficit was nearly gone.
Even after Martin put the Islanders up 5-3 with 3:03 left in the second with his second goal — a slick one-timer from between the circles — Gerbe made it a one-goal game 22 seconds later when he scored from a tight angle.
It was a stark reversal to the start, when the Islanders built a four-goal lead in less than 11 minutes.
But maybe not a surprise for Carolina — which has been outscored 61-37 in first periods this season.
"You can't come out and spot a team four goals in the first period and think you're going to come back and win the hockey game," Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. "It's a mystery why we come out so hesitant and afraid to play in the first period."
McDonald stuffed the puck past Ward 3:39 in and then chased him when he made it 3-0 at 6:12.
Khudobin took over, but by the time he lost track of the puck and Martin whacked it into an open net at 10:54, the Islanders appeared on their way to an easy win.
"I think we knew they were going to come back and push back," Martin said.
NOTES: D Thomas Hickey and C Ryan Strome had two assists apiece for New York. ... C Jordan Staal had two assists for Carolina, which had won each of the previous three meetings by one goal. ... Before the game, the Hurricanes reassigned D Ryan Murphy to their AHL affiliate in Charlotte.