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About Last Night: The Quest For 82-0 Begins

A Dougie Hamilton shootout goal sent Montreal away faster than a matched offer sheet.

Jamie Kellner

For the second straight season, the Carolina Hurricanes tied their opening night game in the third period forcing overtime inside PNC Arena. Last year the New York Islanders took home victory on a Josh Bailey overtime shot. But this year was different. Despite blowing a two goal lead, their top player not playing his best hockey, and even a goal horn controversy, the Hurricanes were able to take down the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 via the shootout last night, while their quest for 82-0 is just beginning.

The Good - The New Guys Shine

After Lucas Wallmark got the Hurricanes on the board in the first period, it was Martin Necas who would net the first power play goal on the year early in the second period. While he might not be technically new, he wasn’t around most of last year despite making the opening night roster. Necas was eventually was sent to Charlotte so he could improve on many small things about his game and he entered camp this year with a lot of expectations. Most of those were centered around filling the offensive void left by Justin Williams stepping away from the NHL.

If opening night was any indication, Necas may be well prepared to fill those offensive shoes. Necas redirected a Dougie Hamilton shot past Carey Price early in the second period on the power play notching his second career goal.

While his overall game still needs improvement, it was clear Necas’ offensive instincts are NHL ready. There were many times throughout the game were he created space and offensive opportunities. The Hurricanes’ power play woes from a year ago could certainly use productivity from Necas and it will be interesting to see how he progresses moving forward.

Two other new faces to the organization teamed up to tie the game in the third period last night as Erik Haula scored and Ryan Dzingel picked up an assist. While these two were brought in for different reasons, both need to factor in to the offensive game for the Hurricanes to be successful this year. Coming at the very tail end of another power play, Haula found himself in the right place at the right time for an easy tap in past Price.

Haula provides the Hurricanes with depth at center unlike they’ve seen in a very long time and his ability to kill penalties will be big for the team. But don’t be fooled by his defense-first mentality, as this is a guy who put up 55 points two years ago and could be a true X-factor for the Hurricanes. Dzingel got the secondary assist on the play but he had multiple great opportunities to score including a breakaway and you can easily see where his skill will be a major benefit to the Canes.

The Bad - Minute To Win Lose It

Shortly after Necas tied the game in the second period Brett Pesce took an interference penalty setting up Montreal with their second power play chance. Tomas Tatar cherry picked Warren Foegele’s clearing attempt and fired a wrist shot past Petr Mrazek. It was a very bad clearing attempt by Foegele after a failed attempt by Joel Edmundson as he sent the puck up the middle of the ice, which is a major no-no in the NHL. After the turnover Haydn Fleury was unable to get in the way of Tatar’s shot but ultimately it’s a goal Mrazek would likely want back.

The momentum inside PNC Arena had been sucked out but it was the Habs’ second goal just 64 seconds later that seemed all too predictable. After the high of going up 2-0 was quickly ripped away by Tatar’s goal, Montreal tied the game on a Jesperi Kotkaniemi goal just over a minute later and there was an overwhelming feeling that the game may slip away.

For Petr Mrazek, emotions play a large part in his game - for better or worse. This felt like a goal where he was still thinking about the first goal and got caught trying far too much moments later. It doesn’t help that Dougie Hamilton’s stick got tangled up with Mrazek as he was coming across the crease, but regardless he found himself scrambling and suddenly the game was tied.

It also does not help that Hamilton was left with no help from his forwards in front of the net which allowed Kotkaniemi to just walk out and wait out Mrazek. It was a major mental lapse that felt predictable, and it’s something the Canes need to work on.

To top off a forgettable second period, the Canes allowed Montreal to score their third straight goal when Jordan Weal one timed a puck past Mrazek putting the Canadiens up 3-2. This was another tough play by Foegele as he got beat back to the net by Weal, but Dougie Hamilton failed to stop the pass creating an easy goal for Montreal. It was another mental lapse and it capped off a very bad second period for the Hurricanes who went from being up 2-0 to being down 3-2 in just over ten minutes.

Mistakes will happen, especially in the first game of the year, but the hope is Rod Brind’Amour can work with his players and they will come out better by learning from the mishaps. The Hurricanes should just be thankful that they were able to come back and these mistakes did not cost them the game.

The Great - The Storm Surge Lives On

With minimal action in overtime, the Canes and Habs headed to a shootout. Dougie Hamilton would score on the very first attempt with a fine double move on Price and Mrazek stopped all three Montreal attempts sealing an opening night victory for Carolina.

But as soon as Mrazek stopped that third attempt there was a unanimous question prevalent among 18,680 fans inside PNC Arena - what happens now?

The beloved Storm Surge was the mastermind of Justin Williams who, in case you had forgotten, is no longer around. He retired the Surge just before the playoffs began so the team could focus on the important games ahead of them. Many suspected that we had seen the end of the Storm Surge and it would remain a distant memory of Williams’ historical season as captain.

Think again!

After the players had finished congratulating Mrazek just past the blue line, shootout hero Hamilton lead the guys to center ice and to every fan’s joy (minus Don Cherry and presumably some Habs fans in Twitter), started the infamous skol clap. The team performed the OG Surge, skating down to the boards and leaping in to the glass.

The question remains however, will they continue? Will they get creative and elaborate like last year, and if so who is the new mastermind? Or was this a simple encore, a reminder of what was last year, and a salute to a fun everyone had with the celebrations. We will have to wait and see what happens next - hopefully the answer comes as soon as Sunday.

Moral of the Story

It’s always good to win no matter how you get there. The Hurricanes’ third period was fantastic, but the second period left a lot to be desired. Many mental mistakes nearly cost them the game and those will need to improve as they take on better competition this weekend. The new faces like Haula and Dzingel have already made their mark on Hurricanes just one game in but older faces like Foegele need to be better.

A very tough test lies ahead of Carolina with Washington on Saturday, who appear to still be upset over the playoff series as we saw in the final preseason game, and the Lightning who want to prove to everyone that their sweep at the hands of the Blue Jackets in last year’s playoffs was a fluke. How Carolina plays in these two games will be interesting to watch and could be a good test to see if they are ready to hang with the big guns of the NHL.