Newcomers Radek Dvorak and Nathan Gerbe paced Carolina to a 2-0 lead Friday in the Hurricanes’ season opener at PNC Arena, but the Detroit Red Wings rallied for two third-period goals — including the game-tying tally with their netminder pulled — and finished the job with an overtime goal to come away with a 3-2 win over the Canes.
1. For a night, Cam Ward was back. Last season, the Hurricanes started off the season winning in spite of their goaltender, who struggled to find his way. Then Ward went down with a knee injury and the wheels completely fell off, with Carolina stumbling to a bottom five finish. Ward made 35 saves Friday night and could hardly be blamed for any of the Red Wings goals in outplayed counterpart Jimmy Howard despite taking the overtime loss. It's just one game, but the Hurricanes — and Ward — can build on his effort.
2. There’s more on Gerbe and Eric Staal later, but one has to wonder why coach Kirk Muller chose to play brothers Jordan and Eric together in the game’s final minute with Patrick Dwyer instead of keeping Gerbe with his two linemates. The Jordan Staal-Gerbe-Dwyer combo worked well all night, but instead of sticking with it Muller swapped out Gerbe for the captain and Detroit wound up scoring the tying goal. That's not meant to pin the goal on Eric Staal, but — as the old adage goes — if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
3. It was a good night for Carolina’s newcomers and youngsters. Dvorak and Gerbe scored, Hainsey and Sekera each logged more than 20 minutes, and rookies Brett Bellemore, Ryan Murphy and Elias Lindholm all looked comfortable. The lineup is not set in stone — Tuomo Ruutu has a home in the top six when he's healthy, and it's unlikely Jeff Skinner will continue to play less than 14 minutes a night — but no one seemed out of place in the opener.
Number To Know
0 — shots on goal for Alexander Semin Friday, just the second time since he just joined the Hurricanes that he has not registered one in a game. Semin still had the most impressive shot of the night, a screaming wrister that beat Howard stick side but hit the post. Semin and the top line can and will be better most nights, but the 29-year-old Russian with a new long-term contract still created some quality chances and could have scored.
Nathan Gerbe — The NHL's smallest player came up big for the Canes Friday. Gerbe got his first goal with Carolina and finished with a team-high five shots in more than 20 minutes of ice time. Not only did Gerbe get on the board — albeit courtesy a flukey bounce on the power play — but he was a nuisance all night, pestering the Red Wings’ top line with linemates Jordan Staal and Dwyer and contributing it all situations.
Eric Staal — We know the plus/minus isn't the end-all, be-all to good play — Justin Faulk’s exceptional play despite being a minus-1 proves that — but the captain was on the ice for all three of Detroit’s goals, wasn't much an offensive threat, took a penalty, and on the whole was a nonfactor. Like Ward’s solid Game 1 performance should be taken with a grain of salt, so too should Staal’s underwhelming opening night. But on a night when Detroit’s captain tied the score with less than a minute left, Staal did not propel his team over the top.