RALEIGH, NC — The Carolina Hurricanes started their anniversary season in dramatic fashion. And with a dramatic win.
Jaccob Slavin scored the only goal in the final round of the shootout as the Hurricanes, who were one second away from victory in regulation before allowing a last-second goal, defeated the Minnesota Wild 5-4 in the season opener, the first time the Hurricanes have opened a season at home in three seasons. The 18,680 fans in attendance at the PNC Arena saw the ‘Canes, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the franchise’s move to the Tar Heel State from Hartford, come from behind after going down 3-1 midway through the second period.
Carolina trailed just 6:30 into the first period on a power-play goal from Minnesota’s Jason Zucker, a deflection in front off of a shot from Matt Dumba which beat Hurricanes’ goalkeeper Scott Darling, who was making his debut with the club. Despite allowing three goals, Darling made 23 saves in the contest along with keeping out the Wild with all three shots they had in the shootout.
“I thought [Darling] was real good,” said Carolina fourth-year head coach Bill Peters. “I thought the power play goal to start the game, he didn’t have a chance, a back door tap in.”
The ‘Canes would answer back a few minutes later with a goal from forward Joakim Nordstrom, stuffing the puck in after a goal-mouth scramble. One of the assists on the goal came from Marcus Kruger, with that helper marking Kruger’s first point in a Hurricanes sweater after coming over from the Chicago Blackhawks in the offseason.
With a mixture of young, promising players along the additions of veteran players with Stanley Cup-winning experience such as Kruger, Darling and forward Teuvo Teravainen (all three from the Chicago Blackhawks), there is a lot of optimism in the locker room and in the stands for this year’s ‘Canes team to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2008-09 season.
“I think there’s a whole different feel to our group to be honest with you,” said Peters. “With all the changes, it’s going to take a little bit of time to get everybody in their roles and confident in their roles.”
Despite the relative unfamiliarity of the squad, the Hurricanes showed their resiliency after Minnesota scored two quick goals – the second of which coming from former Carolina captain Eric Staal just moments after the Wild had killed off a Carolina two-man advantage – to start the second to lead 3-1. Carolina answered back by tallying three unanswered goals to take their first lead by the third period. The goals for Carolina were scored by Derek Ryan in the second, and by Noah Hanifin and Victor Rask in the third period. Rask’s marker came with 1:34 remaining in regulation to give the Hurricanes a 4-3 lead.
The end of the game was something more akin to a fire drill, with the Wild pouring the pressure on the ‘Canes in the offensive zone, pulling goalkeeper Alex Stalock for an extra attacker in the process. Minnesota’s Mikko Koivu was able to score with one second left in the game as the Wild crowded Darling in his crease. The goal would be reviewed for goalie interference and, after a lengthy review, it was determined that there was no interference, sending the game into overtime.
“That last one, [Darling] didn’t have the opportunity to play his position. That’s obvious,” said Peters, in disagreement with the replay decision made in Toronto.
After neither team scored in the extra session, it would take a shootout to determine the game and it was Slavin, who signed a seven-year contract extension in the offseason to commit to the Hurricanes’ rebuild, who scored the lone goal in the shootout, beating Stalock by going high with the backhand.
“It just kind of happens out there,” Slavin said, describing the move he used to score the shootout goal. “I’ve just been doing it for a while. I couldn’t tell you exactly what goes through my mind.”
Darling stopped Eric Staal with the final shot of the shootout, ending the contest that surely took a lot out of both teams physically and emotionally. Darling received medical treatment after the game and was not available to the media in the locker room postgame.
“He’s just getting an IV,” said Peters. “I hope thats all it is. I had a couple of guys cramping up. I don’t know whats going on if its hot or humid out. But I had a couple of guys who were struggling.”