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Recap: Hurricanes go up, then down, then win in shootout

The season opener at PNC Arena had a little bit of everything — including a Hurricanes win.

Kaydee Gawlik

RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes played with fire Thursday night in front of a sellout crowd at PNC Arena, blowing a two-goal lead in less than a period, but Erik Haula and Dougie Hamilton made sure they’d come out with two points.

Haula’s game-tying goal in the third period sent it to overtime, and Hamilton finished off the Canes’ comeback win with the game winner in the shootout to top the Montreal Canadiens 4-3.

The Hurricanes certainly had no shortage of chances. Ryan Dzingel by himself hit two posts, one on a first-period breakaway that beat Carey Price but flew off the crossbar and a second on a two-on-one pass from Martin Necas that he tapped off the left goalpost. Haula had a ping of his own, misfiring first off the post then off Price’s stick trying to convert a perfect Teuvo Teravainen pass on a second-period power play.

It was the Canes that opened the scoring, with Lucas Wallmark poking a puck through Price’s pad with 2:41 to go in the first period giving the home squad their first goal of the season. They doubled their lead through Necas early in the second, a perfect tip of a Dougie Hamilton point shot that seemingly proved why the Canes were happy to keep Necas up on the fourth line with all the power-play time he could handle.

But things changed in the span of 1:05 after Necas scored. Tomas Tatar, who was whistled for a faceoff violation that led to the power play goal, fired from the top of the slot and banked the puck off both Haydn Fleury and Petr Mrazek on its way into the net. Then, Jesperi Kotkaniemi outwaited Mrazek after a defensive turnover and pulled the game back to even.

The back to back goals seemed to stun the Hurricanes, and the Canadiens took advantage, buoyed by their longtime stalwart in net. The Canes had chances, but the Canadiens made theirs count, and Jordan Weal gave the Habs their first lead with 3:30 to go in the second by taking advantage of a lackadaisical Warren Foegele backcheck to get free and tap in a cross-crease pass from Paul Byron.

Rod Brind’Amour, having seen quite enough of the Canes’ uncharacteristically placid play in the second period, changed things up to begin the third, swapping Brock McGinn and Teravainen on the top two lines while moving Necas up to play with Dzingel and Haula. Those last two combined to tie the game again, just as a power play expired 5:50 into the period as Haula tapped home a chance just minutes after Mrazek had denied Cale Fleury, in his debut, on a breakaway.

The new lines lit a fire under the Canes, who looked considerably better than the Habs and tilted the ice decisively toward Price. But the Canes couldn’t break through, and for the third straight year the season’s first game at PNC Arena featured bonus hockey.

Just like last season, when the Hurricanes took 46 shots in an ultimately losing effort against the New York Islanders, they topped the 40-shot mark again this game, tallying 43 on Price. Both teams had grade-A chances in overtime but were shut down by the goaltenders, and off we went to the shootout, where Hamilton’s goal, the only one scored by either team in the skills competition, gave the Hurricanes the win.

They Said It

Rod Brind’Amour:

We didn’t play our game for two periods. I give the other team a ton of credit. They were forcing us to do things that weren’t the way we play. But they were forcing us to do that. They were quick on pucks, and we made so many turnovers that it was counter, counter, right down our throats. We got fortunate - I thought Petr made some big saves to keep us in there. And we had our chances too; I know we hit quite a few goalposts, but the third period the guys made a commitment to getting back to how we draw it up, and I think the game kind of shifted.

[Necas] has a lot of skill. We know that - Captain Obvious. But he still has to learn in the NHL, the one goal he just kind of spun off. You can’t do that stuff. You have to stop and start. But he has a lot of talent, and we’ll definitely work with him, but hopefully he’ll help big on the power play - because we need it.

I liked everything in the third, for the most part. We had a couple of tough shifts, but we just got to our game - that was it. I don’t know if it was shaking up the lines or guys just between periods coming to realize that how we were playing wasn’t going to work. Give them a lot of credit for digging in and figuring it out, and we came away with a win.

[On chemistry:] That’s your biggest fear when you bring in a bunch of new — talented players too. They all want to be a hero. It’s not lack of effort, not lack of trying, but they’re trying to score when they don’t have the puck - it doesn’t work. I don’t think this will be fixed overnight, but we’ll have to keep grinding and working the new guys in. Listen, a lot of the older guys, guys that have been around, they weren’t very good either the first two periods. But again, to their credit, they got it back.

[Haula] works hard. Nice to see a newcomer contribute right away, I think that’s going to help him feel good about where his game is. And, obviously, the long layoff he had, I think that’s just going to help him.

The first two periods were frustrating, but again, it’s going to take a little time to jell as a group - as a D group, as a forward group, as a whole team group. That’s clear tonight.

Erik Haula:

It was good. It was a battle, and it’s been a long time so I felt really good. I feel like I was a little bit rusty, but the third time was the charm. I had a couple good looks and it feels good to get on the board right away and to get a big win on a new team.

I felt like as a group we played a lot better in the third. We looked like the team we want to be in the third. That was the message after the game too, and you could feel it on the bench and see it in the ice.

[The message after two] was pretty clear: it wasn’t good enough, and I think we all knew it, we just needed a little bit of a start. It’s the start of the year, it’s obvious there’s going to be a little bit of rust and mistakes are going to be made, but you have got to learn and that’s why you have leaders. You just have to keep on going and every shift try to get a little bit better.

Martin Necas:

It’s always great to start with a goal, and especially to win. The first two periods we didn’t play our best, but in the third we played way better. We didn’t lose the pucks, we didn’t make those turnovers on the blue lines. We have to keep playing like that.

[The crowd] is unreal. The fans were was unbelievable. It was crazy, so loud, and maybe also because of them we won the third period and we won the game.

Feels great to be on the power play. That’s the spot where I want to play, where I want to be and create those chances. It feels good to be there and score the first one. I have more confidence [than last year], I’m stronger on the puck, I got used to the smaller ice. That was the key.

Dougie Hamilton:

I haven’t been scoring a lot in practice lately, so I wasn’t really sure what to do. When you’re going against the best goalie in the world, I just kind of did whatever and was happy to see it go in. My brain just shuts off and that’s what happens.

We just had some breakdowns [in the second], a couple plays where we had some breakdowns. We still have to clean up a lot of things. [Necas] was flying. When he’s skating and going fast, he’s really effective and makes really good plays. He’s got to play that way every night.

[On skating hard:] That’s our identity, and we weren’t playing to it in the second period. We had to get back to it, Roddy told us in the intermission we had to get back to it, and we did that at the start of the third and played well.

Petr Mrazek:

You don’t want to go to the shootout. It’s great for fans, but we wanted to finish earlier. But two points, a win, first game, first win, not much else we could ask for.

We built from that [Fleury save]. Every moment like that helps, and definitely that was one of them. I’m really happy for [Necas]. First game, on the power play, power play was very good today so we can be happy for that and for Marty as well.

It’s always nice when we go first and we score [in the shootout]. The goalie feels way better in the net after that. The first win is always the hardest one, so I’m really happy that we got one today. The fans were great and I’m really happy they were cheering for us.

Game Notes

  • That was a really quiet yet effective two-assist night for Dougie Hamilton, wasn’t it?
  • Brind’Amour was clearly not pleased with the team’s play in the first 40 minutes despite holding the lead after the first. He’s not one to tinker with the lines, and I don’t know if he’ll stick with the reconstituted pairings for Saturday’s game in Washington, but they were undeniably effective.
  • Hamilton said that the team’s identity is built around speed and skating, which is telling on two fronts: one, because duh, and two, because it’s game one and players usually like to dance around it early in the season, saying they need time to figure out what their identity is. Not this team, and not tonight.
  • The only player on either team to post a minus-2 tonight was — you guessed it — Jaccob Slavin. Of course it was.
  • This was the fourth straight year that the Canes’ season opener has gone into overtime, and the second of those four to end in a shootout - both of which the Canes won.
  • The save on Cale Fleury, looking back, was a real turning point. If that goes in, it’s 4-2 and we’re probably rueing Price’s heroics in the third period. Instead, the Canes fought through, killed the subsequent penalty and eventually tied it up. It’s early, but mark that one down for a key moment in what could well be a playoff race between these two teams.
  • If you thought the goal horn sounded a aren’t wrong. I’m told that one of the air compressors that power the pipes of the horn was malfunctioning at random all night. I’ve heard the horn do that before, and it hasn’t been a lasting issue so I’d expect it will be fixed by Sunday. It’s somehow appropriate that, for all the new stuff in the arena, it’s the 50-year-old horn that dates all the way back to the WHA days in the Hartford Civic Center that goes on the blink on opening night.
  • The Canes will practice at noon tomorrow before flying to Washington later in the afternoon for Saturday’s game.