RALEIGH — With 81 games still to go, the Carolina Hurricanes took solace in all that they liked Friday night about their effort in their season opener against the Detroit Red Wings.
Newcomers Radek Dvorak and Nathan Gerbe scored goals. Justin Faulk and the revamped defense looked relatively solid, negating many of the Red Wings most dangerous chances. And when Detroits forwards got past the defense, goaltender Cam Ward generally looked confident while making 35 saves.
I thought we did a lot of good things, Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said.
Alas, theres a significant asterisk attached to any discussion about what the Hurricanes did well Friday night.
Just as Carolina was trying to put the finishing touches on what would have been a satisfying first-game victory, Detroits Henrik Zetterberg scored with 16.4 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime. And then, 3:13 into the extra session, Stephen Weiss scored the winner to allow the Red Wings to come all the way back from a two-goal deficit and sneak away with a 3-2 victory at PNC Arena.
I think there are a lot of positive things to take away from this game, Carolina defenseman Jay Harrison said. I think we skated very well, and we controlled a good portion of that hockey game.
I think we were in pretty good control of that game. I dont think too many people would argue with that. I think its a good start for our club. Were not satisfied obviously with dropping the lead in the third period, but there were a lot of good things to build on.
For the longest time, it appeared Dvorak and Gerbe or maybe Faulk and the defense or even Ward would be the stories of the game.
Newcomers were something of a theme for the Hurricanes on opening night, with Dvorak, Gerbe, first-round pick Elias Lindholm, defenseman Andrej Sekera and defenseman Ron Hainsey all making their Carolina debuts (defenseman Mike Komisarek, a free-agent signing, was a healthy scratch.)
Dvorak, who is playing in his 18th NHL season, came into training camp without a contract, but he played well enough to earn a one-year deal Wednesday.
Even though he no longer had to play for his immediate future, Dvorak scored the Hurricanes first goal, putting the finishing touches on a well-developed play from Faulk and Jeff Skinner.
After taking a pass from Riley Nash, Faulk skated out of the zone and found Skinner along the boards. Just as he crossed the blue line, Skinner skidded the puck beyond Detroit defenseman Kyle Quincey toward the Red Wings net. Dvorak swiped at the puck just before it got to goaltender Jimmy Howard, knocking it above Howards shoulder.
Gerbe, meanwhile, played in Buffalo last season and was signed by the Hurricanes in July. The diminutive winger had a strong training camp, building a rapport on a line with Jordan Staal and Patrick Dwyer.
And while that relationship could pay dividends as the regular season progresses, Gerbe actually scored on the power play in the second period, quickly sweeping the puck past Howard after a Faulk shot from the point was deflected right to him.
Gerbes goal gave the Hurricanes a 2-0 lead through two periods, but the Red Wings scored 42 seconds into the third period when a Zetterberg pass from the left boards deflected off the stick of Faulk and ricocheted directly to Justin Abdelkader, who beat Ward between the legs from near the right faceoff circle.
Oftentimes last season, a goal allowed by the Hurricanes in the opening minutes of the third period would open the floodgates for opponents.
But that wasnt the case Friday Carolina didnt allow many Detroit chances until the final seconds when the Red Wings pulled their goaltender for an extra skater.
Moments before Zetterberg scored, Daniel Alfredsson actually had a golden chance for the Red Wings, causing Ward to lose his stick. The puck came out to Zetterberg at the top of the slot; spinning around, Zetterberg managed to get the puck on his forehand and snap it past the sprawling Ward.
We had the numbers, we had the guys in front we just werent able to get a handle on it and get it out, Muller said.
The winner then came when a streaking Weiss found the puck open in the crease.
With the team we have, I think were going to be in opportunities to close games out like that and have leads going into the third, Faulk said. Along the way, were going to have to learn how to win those games, I think. Game 1 I think thats something we can learn from.