Carolina Hurricanes

Hurricanes’ final preseason game has a regular-season feel

On to the real thing.

The Carolina Hurricanes closed out an encouraging preseason schedule with an intense game against the Nashville Predators on Sunday at PNC Arena, losing 5-4 on Ryan Johansen’s goal at 21 seconds of OT.

Justin Williams, Sebastian Aho and Calvin de Haan each scored even-strength goals, and Martin Necas had a third-period power play score for the Canes, who finished the preseason 5-0-1. Johansen scored twice and Craig Smith had two power-play goals for the Predators in a game that turned chippy.

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Carolina Hurricanes’ Justin Williams (14) slips the puck between Nashville Predators’ Roman Josi (59) and goaltender Pekka Rinne (35) for a goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018, in Raleigh, N.C. Karl B DeBlaker AP

‘It was good, a little bit of fire,” said Williams, the Canes captain. “It was a good battle for us and now we start for real.”

The Canes open the regular season Thursday against the New York Islanders at PNC Arena, the official start to the Rod Brind’Amour era as head coach.

Observations on the final preseason game:

-- Goaltending became a concern for the Canes with 7:45 left in the second period. That’s when Scott Darling left the game with a lower-body injury, bringing in Petr Mrazek.

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Nashville Predators’ Filip Forsberg (9) celebrates the game winning overtime goal by teammate Ryan Johansen, not pictured, behind Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Petr Mrazek (34) at an NHL preseason hockey game, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018, in Raleigh, N.C. Karl B DeBlaker AP

Darling faced 15 shots in the first period and was forced into some tough saves. The Preds scored three times before Darling left

“He tweaked something in the lower body,” Brind’Amour said. “They were all over us there and he was diving all over to make saves and battling hard. I think something went wrong in his hamstring area. Right now I’m not sure how long he is going to be (out).”

-- Some training camp for Warren Foegele, yes? The forward comes in, a 22-year-old full of energy, makes the team, starts Sunday’s preseason game at PNC Arena on a line with Aho and Teuvo Teravainen.

Foegele’s value on the penalty kill can’t be understated. And with the addition of forward Jordan Martinook in the trade with Arizona, the Canes have two active, instinctive penalty killers. During a first-penalty kill Sunday, Martinook and Foegele nearly hooked up for a shorthanded score, Pekka Rinne robbing Foegele of a goal.

One problem: penalties. Foegele spent six minutes in the penalty box Sunday as the Canes had nine penalties in all.

-- The Canes Aho proved he can take a punch. The center took one in the chest from a gloved P.K. Subban late in the first as the feisty Preds defenseman knocked Aho to the ice.

Subban was sent to the penalty box -- for interference. The refs missed the punch. Foegele didn’t. He quickly jumped in Subban’s face.

-- The healthy extras for the Canes: defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk and forward Valentin Zykov. Someone had to sit and those were the two made extras by Brind’Amour.

Brind’Amour also put the defensive pairing of Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce back together, with Dougie Hamilton paired with Haydn Fleury and Justin Faulk with Calvin de Haan. Van Riemsdyk has had a solid training camp and Zykov has been a boost to the power play with his heavy work around the net.

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Carolina Hurricanes’ Brett Pesce (22) takes the puck away from Nashville Predators’ Colin Blackwell (42) during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018, in Raleigh, N.C. Karl B DeBlaker AP

-- The Canes’ Micheal Ferland can make an imprint on a game by making an imprint on an opposing player or two. In the first period, he smashed Preds defenseman Roman Josi in the corner in the Preds zone. Later in the period, Ferland did the same to forward Mikka Salomaki.

Things really heated up in the third. After watching Subban put a knee-to-knee hit on Teravainen, Ferland mixed it up and traded slashes with Subban. They later jawed at each other from the penalty boxes until told to cease and desist by a ref. The glares continued.

-- Canes owner Tom Dundon opened the doors at PNC Arena and invited fans to come -- for free -- to the final preseason game during the annual Caniac Carnival. Many did. Dundon may have taken a financial hit to do it, but it had the look and feel of a regular-season game, complete with a lot of tailgating outside the arena.

“It was a great opportunity to showcase our product,” general manager Don Waddell said.

-- As early as July, Brind’Amour was talking about pairs when discussing possible line combinations. Aho and Teravainen was all but a given. Staal and Williams. Maybe Victor Rask and Jeff Skinner before Skinner was traded.

Brind’Amour wasn’t sure then where forwards Martin Necas and Andrei Svechnikov would fit. Svechnikov was on the fourth line Sunday with Lucas Wallmark and Martinook, which might be a good starting point for the first-round pick, from whom much is expected.

-- Necas has the speed and skill but can be indecisive at times. He wasn’t indecisive on the late power play, ripping a one-timer from the left circle for a 4-4 tie.

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