After a long six months, it's finally time for hockey to return to Raleigh. The Carolina Hurricanes will play their first game in their own building tonight after a long six game road trip to start the season. There's something uniquely exciting about a home opener; a team's performance in it can set the tone for the season to come. How have the Hurricanes fared in their home openers in seasons past? We take a look at the past eleven seasons of home openers, starting back on October 7, 2005.
October 7, 2005: Hurricanes 3, Penguins 2 (SO)
The Canes came into the home opener with an 0-1-0 record after losing to the Lightning on opening night, where they were the guests of honor to see the Lightning raise their 2004 Stanley Cup championship banner. The Canes returned home to face off against Mario Lemieux's Pittsburgh Penguins in what turned out to be a very special game. The first period was highlighted by goals from Eric Staal and Cory Stillman as the Canes jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead, but in the third period, power play goals from Pittsburgh's Ryan Malone and Ziggy Palffy sent the game to overtime.
A scoreless overtime allowed for the two teams to try out the NHL's newly implemented shootout. Rookie goaltender Cam Ward stopped Palffy, Sidney Crosby, and Lemieux in the shootout, earning his first NHL win. The Hurricanes had put the first game of a storybook season in the win column.
October 4, 2006: Sabres 3, Hurricanes 2 (SO)
In 2006, the Hurricanes raised their own banner at their home opener, hosting the Buffalo Sabres, the team they had vanquished in the previous season's Eastern Conference final. Buffalo's Dmitri Kalinin kicked off the scoring, but Eric Staal answered later in the first with helpers from Ray Whitney and Cam Ward. In the second, Erik Cole tallied a power play goal with help again from The Wizard and Justin Williams. Chris Drury answered for Buffalo shortly after and a scoreless third period sent the game to overtime.
Interestingly, through 60 minutes of play the referees recorded an insane 20 minor penalties. For the second year in a row, a scoreless overtime sent the game to a shootout, but this time the Hurricanes weren't so lucky. They fell in the shootout and went home with a point. This home opener was more or less indicative of the Canes' 2006-07 season as a whole: they played well enough to win but ultimately fell short.
October 3, 2007: Canadiens 3, Hurricanes 2 (OT)
After becoming the first Stanley Cup champion to miss the playoffs in the following season, the Carolina Hurricanes entered their home opener against the Montreal Canadiens on October 3, 2007 looking to turn over a new leaf. The Hurricanes kicked off the scoring just 4 minutes into the first with a power play goal from Eric Staal. 10 minutes later, Mark Streit got the Habs on the board with a power play goal. After a scoreless second, Bret Hedican and Saku Koivu traded goals in the third to send the game to overtime for the third straight year.
Just a minute into overtime, Koivu scored again, handing the Hurricanes an OT loss in the first game of the season. The Hurricanes lost the home opener in similar fashion as the year before and ultimately ended the season in similar fashion, just a few points out of the playoffs.
October 10, 2008: Hurricanes 6, Panthers 4
On October 10, 2008, the Hurricanes dropped the puck on the season with a home opener against the division foe Florida Panthers. This game was a shootout with 10 total goals scored, including one by old friend Cory Stillman who by now was sporting a Panthers jersey. Six goals, including an empty netter from Matt Cullen, ultimately was enough to lift the Hurricanes past the Panthers in regulation.
While the Hurricanes didn't get off to a particularly hot start in this season, the decisive home opener win seemed to set the tone for the season as the Hurricanes made a run to the conference finals where they lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
October 2, 2009: Flyers 2, Hurricanes 0
After what by any measure would be termed a successful season, the Hurricanes hit the ice early in October, to accommodate the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, with coach Paul Maurice signed to a multi-year contract extension. However, the opening act of the season, a 2-0 shutout at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers, was a painful game to watch for the home crowd.
The team struggled to produce any offense despite 28 shots on net as Philadelphia's Jeff Carter and Mike Richards tallied goals on the way to a decisive win. This loss marked the start of a disappointing season that was notable by the promotion of Eric Staal to captain and the retirement of longtime captain Rod Brind'Amour at season's end.
October 27, 2010: Capitals 3, Hurricanes 0
Technically, the Canes' "home" opener took place at Hartwall Areena in Helsinki, the second game of the team's opening series in Finland against the Minnesota Wild in which the Canes were designated as the home team and beat the Wild 2-1 in a shootout. However, their first game back at PNC Arena took place late in October, and for the second straight year the Canes were blanked, this time at the hands of the Washington Capitals.
Matt Hendricks opened the scoring for the Caps midway through the first period, and two third-period goals from Nicklas Backstrom, the second while shorthanded into an empty net, provided the final margin of victory. Michal Neuvirth made 29 saves as the Canes dropped to .500 on the season, finishing the year just outside the playoffs but earning some recognition as the team hosted the 2011 All-Star Game and rookie Jeff Skinner won the Calder Trophy.
October 7, 2011: Lightning 5, Hurricanes 1
The Tampa Bay Lightning came to town as the Hurricanes opened up the 2011 season, and the Hurricanes suffered a decisive defeat as the Bolts tallied 5 goals. Future captain Steven Stamkos recorded 2 assists for the Lightning, and the only Hurricanes goal came from previous year all-star Jeff Skinner.
This crushing defeat marked the beginning of another slow start for the Hurricanes. Head coach Paul Maurice would be fired just a few weeks later, the second time he was let go by the organization, and the club brought Kirk Muller in to replace him. The Hurricanes ultimately finished at hockey .500 and well out of the playoffs.
January 22, 2013: Lightning 4, Hurricanes 1
Carolina went into the lockout shortened 2012-2013 season having added another Staal brother to the roster the previous offseason. However, the work stoppage delayed Jordan Staal's debut until January, again facing the Tampa Bay Lightning. Similar to the prior season, the Hurricanes lost decisively 4-1. The only highlight was a Jeff Skinner goal in the second period assisted by the two high profile acquisitions of the summer -- Jordan Staal and Alex Semin. The Hurricanes still struggled to be consistently competitive throughout the season, falling short of the postseason once again.
October 4, 2013: Red Wings 3, Hurricanes 2 (OT)
The Hurricanes opened their 2013-14 season against the Detroit Red Wings on October 3, 2013. The Canes got on the board first with a goal from Radek Dvorak in the first period. Nathan Gerbe doubled the Canes' lead with a power play goal late in the second period, but the Red Wings came back with 3 unanswered goals, the final one an overtime marker 3:13 into overtime off the stick of Stephen Weiss. The season was one to forget as the Canes finished second to last in the newly minted Metropolitan Division.
October 10, 2014: Islanders 5, Hurricanes 3
The New York Islanders came to town to open the 2014-15 season and started quickly, jumping out to a 3-0 lead at the second intermission on the strength of two power-play goals. Third period goals from Nathan Gerbe, Chris Terry, and Eric Staal were too little too late as the Islanders dealt the Canes their sixth straight home opener defeat.
The Hurricanes had one of their slowest season starts ever, not recording a win until their ninth game. The slow start proved much too deep of a hole to climb out of as the Canes finished in the Metropolitan Division basement.
October 10, 2015: Red Wings 4, Hurricanes 3
For the second time in three seasons, the Detroit Red Wings were the guests of honor on opening night of the 2015-16 season. It was the first time since the lockout-shortened 2013 season that the Canes' first game of the season wasn't their home opener, returning back to Raleigh after a loss the night before at Nashville.
After a scoreless first, the Hurricanes got out to a 2-1 lead with goals from Victor Rask and Nathan Gerbe. Defensive breakdowns in the third period led to 3 straight goals for Detroit (sound familiar?), and a Faulk power play goal in the dwindling seconds still left the Hurricanes with a 4-3 loss. Despite looking competitive, the Hurricanes still had nothing to show for it.
The home opener set the tone in a way for the first few months of the season, as the Hurricanes struggled to fight to hockey .500. The slow start ultimately kept the Hurricanes out of the playoffs for the seventh straight year, coinciding with the number of consecutive seasons they had dropped their home opener.
Since 2005, the Carolina Hurricanes have compiled a season opener record of 3-6-2, with seven straight losses (0-6-1) entering tonight since 2009. Interestingly, the Hurricanes haven't made the playoffs after losing their home opener since 2005. Their three most impressive seasons have all come after a home opening win. What was your personal favorite Hurricanes home opener memory? Let us know in the comments.