On the hottest October day on record in the Triangle, PNC Arena was a pretty cool place to be.
The Carolina Hurricanes were beginning a new season. The Montreal Canadiens were in town. Even in sweltering heat, Canes fans came early Thursday to tailgate, socialize, consume a few beverages and then fill the place for some fast-paced hockey.
The Canes and Canadiens played 60 hard-fought minutes, then went to overtime, then a shootout in the first game of the season before the Hurricanes won 4-3.
Defenseman Dougie Hamilton, leading off for the Canes, was the only player to score in the shootout, beating Habs goalie Carey Price with a nifty move.
“I wasn’t really sure what to do going against the best goalie in the world,” said Hamilton, who also had two assists in the opener. “Just do whatever and I was happy to see it go in. My brain just shuts off and that’s what happens.”
Canes goalie Petr Mrazek denied Paul Byron, Jonathan Drouin and finally rookie forward Nick Suzuki in the shootout.
And, yes, there was a Storm Surge postgame celebration, as the players skated down the ice and jumped into the glass, Hamilton leading the charge.
The Canes, the “bunch of jerks” who not only went to the playoffs but reached the Eastern Conference finals last season, were given big ovations by the sellout crowd during the pregame introductions. Rod Brind’Amour, his first season as a head coach so memorable, may have received the longest, loudest roar as he began his second behind the bench.
It was a game of speed and quickness. It was a game with increasing intensity, especially after the Canes had a 2-0 lead in the second period and the Canadiens rebounded to take a 3-2 lead before the period ended.
Center Erik Haula, in his first game with the Canes, tied the score 3-3 at 6:55 of the third with a shot in tight at the post. Haula, acquired in the offseason from the Vegas Golden Knights, missed all but 15 games last season with a severe knee injury but scored a big goal as the Canes fought from behind.
“It feels good to get on the board right away and feels good to get a big win,” said Haula, who last scored Nov. 1, 2018 against St. Louis. “I feel as a group we played a lot better in the third and we played like the team we want to be.”
Said Brind’Amour: “I give them a lot of credit for digging in and figuring it out.”
Mrazek, who had 33 saves, stopped all 13 shots he faced in the first. But the Canadiens, buzzing in the offensive zone in the second, kept attacking and found the net as they controlled play in the second.
Lucas Wallmark had the Canes’ first goal of the season. At 17:19 of the first, the fourth-line center first tipped a Brett Pesce shot in front, then knocked in the rebound after Price got his right pad on the tip.
The Canes also scored on their first power play of the season. Martin Necas went to the front of the crease and got a piece of a Hamilton shot and it was 2-0, Canes, at 2:19 of the second.
Necas and Julien Gauthier, both former first-round draft picks, battled it out for a roster spot and Necas was the choice, in part, because of his power-play ability. The Czech winger also made the roster out of training camp last year but spent most of the season with the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League after playing seven games with the Canes.
“He’s got a lot of skill. We know that,” Brind’Amour said. “He’s got a lot of talent and we’ll definitely work with him but he hopefully will help on the power play because we need it.”
The Canadiens shifted the momentum after an interference call against Pesce at 3:16 of the second. Tomas Tatar scored from the slot on the power play and Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s goal, off a rebound, tied it 2-2 as the Habs scored twice in 64 seconds.
An odd-man rush then gave the Canadiens their first lead as Jordan Weal converted off a Byron pass. Price, who finished with 40 saves, was settling in.
The Canes had chances to add to the lead before the Habs’ surge. Sebastian Aho tested Price with a shorthanded backhander in the first. Ryan Dzingel, playing his first game for the Canes, had Price beaten later in the period but had his shot go off the crossbar.
In the second, Jordan Staal, in his first game as the Canes captain, ripped a shot off the post. Haula forced Price into a tough, lunging save in the second period.
Mrazek made one of his best saves of the night early in the third, stuffing rookie defenseman Cale Fleury -- the younger brother of the Canes’ Haydn Fleury -- on a breakaway. Call it a timely stop. Haula soon tied the score.
Brind’Amour shuffled the lines in the third, moving Teuvo Teravainen on to Aho’s line and moving Brock McGinn to Staal’s line.
“We just got to our game. That was it,” Brind’Amour said of the third. “I don’t know if it was shaking up the lines or guys between periods coming to realize how we were playing wasn’t going to work.”
The Canadiens were the hard-luck team in the East last season, squeezed out of a wild-card playoff spot in the final week as the Canes and Columbus Blue Jackets moved on to the postseason. Brind’Amour, for one, said the Habs easily could have been a playoff team, saying the Canes struggled against them in each game.