A new coaching staff, a new front office and plenty of new players couldn't break the home-opener curse of the Carolina Hurricanes.
For the sixth straight season, the Canes fell on opening night at home, this time a 5-3 decision to the New York Islanders on Friday night in front of a sellout crowd at PNC Arena. The Isles were powered by two goals from Brock Nelson and three-point nights from John Tavares and Johnny Boychuk, while the Canes countered with goals scored by Nathan Gerbe, Chris Terry and Eric Staal.
Coach Bill Peters, in his first game behind the bench as an NHL head coach, said despite the outcome, there were things the team can build on as they head to Long Island for the second half of the back-to-back season opening series.
"I thought we executed fairly well, especially in the first half of the first period," he said. "Our execution went away a little bit [in the second period]."
The Canes had every chance to get off on the right foot, with Victor Rask and John-Michael Liles both missing tap-ins during an early first-period power play. Peters said that if either of those chances had gone in, it would have been a different game. "Anytime you can get a lead, obviously it makes it easier. I think if we could have gotten one, it could have changed things for sure."
A late first-period 5-on-3 for the Islanders cashed in on both ends, with Boychuk scoring while the Isles were two men up and Nelson hitting paydirt just as the second penalty expired. Despite the possibility of a "here we go again" moment, Staal said that institutional memory didn't play any part in how the Canes competed the rest of the night.
"You can't have that mindset. That's terrible," the Canes captain said. "This is a new season. We're not worried about that. We'll get better and be ready for tomorrow night."
The Canes' three goals came as part of a wild third period that saw five goals on 19 shots between the two teams. Gerbe put the home team on the board at 1:23, deflecting a point shot from Justin Faulk on the power play. Terry followed with a one-timer at 14:20 and Staal made things interesting by scoring a power play goal at 18:26, matching his total number of power play goals from last season on opening night.
Despite pulling Cam Ward for the extra attacker and looking a bit threatening in the final minute, Isles goalie Jaroslav Halak stood tall, making 21 saves to help the Isles to their second straight win over Carolina following a streak of six straight losses that was broken last March.
Peters mixed up the lines late in the game, inserting Alexander Semin with Rask and Gerbe and promoting Lindholm to the line with Staal and Jiri Tlusty. It paid off, with all three players on the line chipping in on Staal's late goal. "It's easy to play with a guy like Eric," said Lindholm. "Just give him the puck and try to get open."
For the Canes, a back-to-back is the perfect antidote to get the sour taste of opening night out of their mouths. Peters strongly hinted that healthy scratches Ryan Murphy and Brett Bellemore will be in the lineup tomorrow night at Nassau Coliseum, and Anton Khudobin is expected to start in goal as the Canes look to win in an arena where their last loss was in February of 2012.
- John Tavares' three assists continue his mastery of the Canes. Tavares now has 25 points in 19 career games against Carolina.
- Rask and Patrick Brown both made their debuts in the game, the first time two players have debuted for the Canes in one game since Jeff Skinner and Zac Dalpe did so in Helsinki against Minnesota on opening night of the 2010-11 season.
- Nelson had two assists to go with his two goals, doubling his previous career high for points in a single game set in January against the Rangers.
(3) John Tavares, (2) Johnny Boychuk, (1) Brock Nelson
(Every night this season, we will pick the three most enjoyable snarky comments from the open game thread and feature them in the recap, keeping score to see at the end of the year who is the Canes Country King or Queen of Snark. Want to participate? Join the open game thread and snark away!)
(2) Bgallen: (in response to one of many frustrated critiques of Eric Staal) "i think he needs a true number one winger."
(1) Winter is Coming: "Husband just said, 'Well, at least we don’t have to worry about watching extra hockey.' I thought, 'Does he mean the game or the season?' Then, I realized it didn’t matter. Could be both."
- Winter is Coming: 3
- Bgallen: 2
- Flyingv2112: 1