With their season hanging in the balance, the Carolina Hurricanes gave up two early goals to the Florida Panthers before ...
Wait a second.
Wasn't this supposed to be a new season? A fresh start? A more reliable, mobile defense?
Well, yes. It just took 10 minutes for all of that to show up on the ice.
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This season started with missed opportunities, porous defense and early goals allowed. Fortunately for the Hurricanes, what came next was not only an improvement but, if all goes well, a preview of what may be to come.
Friday's 6-4 win started with a virtual continuation of the season-ending loss to the Panthers that knocked the Canes out of a playoff spot and ended with a victory that validated, in a very incremental way, all their offseason turnover.
"Coming back from a little adversity, down 2-0, shows a lot of character," Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason said.
This might not have been Kevin Dineen's "must-win game" to open the season, but with seven of the next eight on the road -- and the one home game against the defending Stanley Cup champions on Monday -- it wasn't far off.
A loss would have started the Canes down a road they didn't want to travel, and that's where they looked headed early.
The Canes missed four open nets and the Panthers split Carolina defensemen twice -- once for the opening goal, once to draw a penalty that led to a five-on-three and the second goal. Restless fans had seen all this before.
"We were just fumbling the puck every time we had it, turning it over," Hurricanes defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. "It was exactly what we didn't want to do."
But Tuomo Ruutu's power-play deflection got the Canes on the right track, the first of three straight Carolina goals. When Florida got back into the game, tying the score 3-3, the Canes tacked on two more, held off the Panthers at the end and added an empty-netter.
Cam Ward stopped 25 of the final 27 shots he faced, including two big saves to preserve the one-goal lead late. Ward knows he has a lot to prove this season, and that effort started in earnest Friday.
"When I looked at my performance last year, at times I wasn't making the big save," Ward said. "I want to be a part of this team's success, and I have to shut the door when I get the chance."
One of the game's 10 goals came from Cory Stillman, albeit for the visitors, but the Canes found offense everywhere. Rod Brind'Amour, less than four weeks removed from knee surgery and still admittedly rusty, scored a critical goal. Gleason had a career-high three points.
Joni Pitkanen scored in his Carolina debut, Brandon Sutter picked up an assist in his NHL debut and Dan LaCouture scored the game-winner in what might as well have been his NHL debut -- his first goal since February 2006 and his first game-winner since March 2004, six teams ago.
All told, 13 of Carolina's 18 skaters ended up on the scoresheet, including all three Hurricanes debutants, and not one was Eric Staal.
"It was good the new guys got those goals," Brind'Amour said. "It gets them in the mix. It's the best way to get everybody involved and feeling good."
If the Canes can score six goals without a material contribution from a player who figures to be one of the league's leading scorers -- a player who carried them down the stretch last spring -- that can only bode well for what will surely be a grueling month on the road.
"It's a starting point," Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. "We can work on both ends of the ice."
Laviolette's right. It's only one game. But it's a starting point that points the Canes in the right direction.