The Hurricanes returned to action Thursday night in their home opener against PNC Arena against the Tampa Bay Lightning, picking up a 1-0 overtime win.
The team was without five lineup regulars due to their placement on the NHL’s COVID protocol list, but that didn’t stop it from putting in a thoroughly impressive performance against the defending champs, including an overtime winner from Martin Necas, strong return from Jordan Staal and great game in net from Petr Mrazek.
Mrazek, Staal, Necas and head coach Rod Brind’Amour spoke to the media after the win, here’s a full breakdown of everything they had to say:
On the goalies and rust: It was definitely, I’d say, a great goaltending performance from both guys. I don’t think it was really rusty. We had a lot of grade-A chances. I was really, really impressed with the way we played. We came out hard for 60 minutes. We were good. You’re playing the best team in the world. We went toe to toe with them. They made some really good plays and Petr had to come up big. We had some really good plays too in there, and their goalie was really good. I expected, actually, more rust, to be honest with you. So I was pretty happy with everything.
On Martin Necas: He’s got that ability that I call it game breaking. Five on five is hard and it’s tight. You get those specialty times, you need to have those special players, and we’ve got a couple. So he’s starting to really emerge. Obviously you can see it. To your earlier part about learning the game, he’s taken strides in that area too, so we can definitely use him. Tonight, we even used him on the penalty kill and he was fine. We talked about opportunity before the game, and he definitely stepped up.
On the new guys and Staal coming off after winning the opening draw in overtime: That’s part of the plan. He was great, logged a lot of minutes. He always does but tonight was even more so, and when he was out, you’d miss that. It’s tough to replace that. Everyone was good tonight, that’s what was great. We knew we needed to have all 20 guys contribute in some form or fashion, and I thought that’s what happened tonight.
On the system: That is how it’s supposed to look. It doesn’t really matter who goes in. We got to the other part about the times where the talent’s got to take over, but I felt like tonight, like I said, it looked right. The effort was certainly there. And generally we always have that. We had some gaffes and some things we didn’t do right, but, overall, I thought the new guys that were in there did a really good job.
On if a win like that can bring the team closer together: You would think so, for sure. We had five guys out that we really rely on. Like I said, we had a lot of new guys come in and they did the job. But I’d also say the veteran guys that have been here stepped up big time. There were some huge performances by all of our veteran guys to pick up the slack as well. It was a hard-fought game, obviously it could have gone either way. But I thought we, to a man, dug in and that’s what you have to do.
On goaltending this season: They’ve been super sharp. Petr looked great tonight. He looked like he was on it right from the start, and even the grade-A chances they had, he looked like he was going to save them. He looked like he had a bead on it. We all know the goaltending, like look at the guy on the other end, there were some saves there that were ridiculous too. So it was one of those exciting games to be a 1-0 game. For me, anyway, it was a lot of action. We need that. Obviously, you’re not going anywhere without goaltending.
On his game winner: The first line did a great job. They kept the puck for, I think, like a minute. Their line was pretty tired. We changed and they couldn’t really skate there anymore. We just kind of took the puck back, and I gave it to Jordan, we went two on one and he made a beautiful sauce to me. I just kind of slashed it into the net.
On playing after the long layoff: Our plan was to keep the shifts as short as we could and that way we just had a little bit more energy and I feel like we were buzzing in the first period and in the second one they had a little bit more momentum than we did. The third was even. Fortunately, in OT, we scored and we took the two points.
On playing on the penalty kill: I love it. It was good. When I was younger, I used to play on the PK. Now I was just watching the guys, how they defended, and it’s good to be part of the PK. I like it, and we’ll see when the other guys are going to jump in, but I definitely like to play on the PK.
On overtime: There’s always a chance. It’s 3 on 3 on our ice, which is an advantage for better skaters, I would say. There’s a lot of space. Once somebody will sleep on you, you’ve got two-on-ones, three-on-twos, so it’s good for fans as well. Yeah, I like to play OT.
On the setup for the game-winning goal: [Sebastian Aho] did all the work there. He tired them out and I got a good change. He had some extra jump. It was a great effort from everybody. You’re gonna need that against that team. They’re a very good team. I thought [Mrazek] played really well and stopped some good ones. We found a way to sneak it out at the end.
On the players that were called up: I think we have some great depth here and guys are just able to step up into different roles and excel. I thought [Steven Lorentz] played a good game. He was my linemate and skated really well. The rest of the crew was really solid too. It’s what we needed. We needed everybody. Those opportunities; you want to take advantage of them and I think everybody who stepped up into the lineup did a good job.
On Petr Mrazek keeping the team in the game in the second: I felt that in the second period. You want to play a full 60 minutes, you really do, but they made a good push in the second period and Mrazek did a great job of keeping it out of the net. I thought we had some good looks in the first and third. It was a good game. Wasn’t a whole lot of room and there were some opportunities around the net a few times, special teams and PK was good. Our PP needs to sneak one in, I think is how we win that game. We were fortunate to get it in overtime.
On Steven Lorentz: The kid was great. I could tell right away that he was feeling comfortable. He’s got great speed and I just told him to use his legs. ‘You go get the pucks and find me backdoor,’ is kind of how I was joking around with him. He had a great game. He skated well, made some good plays and did what he had to do.
On getting the win after the hiatus: For myself, it was a little bit longer being off then the rest of the guys. It felt like the start of the season all over again. It was a weird feeling going into the game, but [Brind’Amour] did a good job of making sure we were on the attack. We wanted to get on it right away. I felt like we did in the first period, but we lost some steam in the second. Despite that long break, I thought we jumped into it and got our legs into it quickly. We found a way to grind one out.
On this game being a rallying type: It’s adversity and teams grow with adversity. Coming out of that break we knew it was going to be tough against one of, if not the, best team in the league. We knew it was a great challenge and I thought the guys did a great job of stepping up and fighting through that little adversity. Just finding ways to grind it out. It was a very rewarding feeling, but we have to stay after it. Can’t have a lull in the next games coming up.
On what he was seeing: It was a really good game. Both teams played well. Always if you’re facing a great team, you’re going to face some good opportunities. I was lucky in a few of them. Being off for 10 days, we just had to battle through it and I think we came out really hard and we showed in the first period that we were ready.
On facing off against Andrei Vasilevskiy: It’s always a challenge to play a goalie like him, especially considering he’s a Stanley Cup champion from last year. It was a big challenge, but for everyone, it was exciting.
On the defensemen in front of him: [Slavin] is one of the best defensemen in the NHL and we miss him, but the guys stepped up big time in front of me.