Opening nights are always an exciting time in the NHL and especially so for the Carolina Hurricanes, with the pregame tailgates and band blaring. It’s one, big lawn party.
The Canes also are celebrating their 20th anniversary in the Triangle, adding even more to the season-opener Saturday at PNC Arena.
But what the Canes really wanted was a season-opening victory and they got it, as Jaccob Slavin’s shootout goal gave Carolina a 5-4 win.
The Canes appeared to get the winning goal when Victor Rask scored with 1:34 left in regulation for a 4-3 lead, beating Wild goalie Alex Stalock with a sharp top-shelf shot. But the Wild, with an extra attacker, tied it 4-4 in the final second of regulation on Mikko Koivu’s goal.
The play was reviewed for possible goaltender interference – Canes goalie Scott Darling could not move across the crease in the frantic, last-gasp scrum. But the goal counted, and it was on to overtime, then the shootout, and Slavin had the only shootout goal as Darling stopped Tyler Ennis and Koivu and Eric Staal was wide of the net on his attempt.
Joakim Nordstrom, Derek Ryan and Noah Hanifin also scored for the Canes – Ryan on a second-period power play – as Darling made his first start for Carolina. The game was played at a fast pace, which the Canes like, and entertained the sellout crowd of 18,680.
Hanifin’s goal, off a Sebastian Aho pass, tied the score 3-3 in the third period. Aho also had the primary assist on the Rask goal, setting up the center in the right circle for the shot as Rask went high on Wild goalie Alex Stalock.
“All 31 teams have a lot of excitement this time of the year,” Canes coach Bill Peters said before the game. “We’re excited about the changes we’ve made. Now we get to see them take place in a real game, a regular-season game.”
One change was bringing back an old hero, veteran forward Justin Williams, a member of the Canes 2006 Stanley Cup winners. In his first game for Carolina since February 2009, Williams, at 36, was the Canes’ best forward.
Another big addition was Darling, brought in to be the Canes’ No. 1 goalie. Darling was the starter Saturday and not Cam Ward, who was not in net for Carolina’s home opener for the first time since Oct. 7, 2005.
Darling was twice beaten on breakaways – by Stewart in the first, then Eric Staal in the second. The Wild’s first goal came on a first-period power play as Jason Zucker beat defenseman Brett Pesce out of the corner and was open for the backdoor shot.
Williams was robbed of a goal in the second period as Stalock made a spectacular save. Moments later, he ripped a shot that Ryan tipped past Stalock to pull the Canes within 2-1.
The Wild, beaten by the Detroit Red Wings in its opener, played without forwards Zach Parise (back issues) and Mikael Granlund (groin injury). Stalock, not Devan Dubnyk, was in net for his first start of the season.
Jordan Staal served as the team captain for the Canes for the first time – Staal and Justin Faulk were named co-captains this week.
Staal took the opening face-off of the season against brother, Eric, once the Carolina captain and now an alternate captain for the Wild.
Eric Staal won the faceoff. He later scored.