The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 in the shootout as defenseman Dougie Hamilton scored the lone shootout goal to thwart the Habs’ comeback.
After asserting a 2-0 lead over the Canadiens (0-0-1), the Canes (1-0-0) found themselves down 3-2 after two periods. Needing to hit a reset, the Hurricanes found the spark in the third period when a clutch goal from new forward Erik Haula tied the game. The two teams battled it out with both goaltenders going save for save all the way to the shootout where Hamilton’s goal was the winner.
“You don’t want to go to a shootout,” said Hurricanes goaltender Petr Mrazek. “It’s great for the fans, but we want to finish earlier. Two-point win, first game, what more could you ask for.”
Last year’s final matchup against the Canadiens marked the turning point where the Hurricanes really cemented their spot in the first wild card position. Since then, a pseudo-rivalry has seemingly developed after Montreal tended an offer sheet to Carolina star forward Sebastian Aho, although it isn’t as bad on the ice as it is on the internet.
On the ice, the Hurricanes got the ball rolling late in the first period as Lucas Wallmark would not be denied on his quest to score the first goal of Carolina’s season. With his initial tip on goal stopped, Wallmark collected the rebound and shot it past Canadien goaltender Carey Price.
The storm didn’t end there as the Canes scored another goal, with this one shockingly coming on the very first power play of the season. Martin Necas tipped a Hamilton slapshot early on in the second period to extend Carolina’s lead to two.
“It’s always great to start with a goal, especially with a win,” Necas said. “The first two periods we didn’t play our best, but in the third one we played way better. We didn’t lose the pucks, we didn’t make those turnovers on the blueline and we need to keep playing like we did in the third.”
However, that was as far as the storm went. Montreal, on its second power play of the night, cut the lead to one as Canadiens’ Tomas Tatar let go of a strong wrister that beat Hurricanes’ Mrazek.
Montreal struck again, barely over a minute later, as Mrazek struggled to control the rebound off of a heavy shot and Jesperi Kotkaniemi picked up the loose puck and outwaited Mrazek to tie up the game with a top corner snipe.
The Habs were the more dominant zone team in the second period while the majority of the Hurricanes’ chances came off the rush. Jordan Staal, Ryan Dzingel and Erik Haula all hit iron as they tried to re-establish the Hurricanes’ lead. However, Montreal’s pressure was again too much for Carolina as Jordan Weal finished off a feed from Paul Byron to give the Canadiens their first lead of the night.
“We didn’t really play our game for two periods,” said head coach Rod Brind’Amour “I give the other team a ton of credit because they were forcing us to do things that’s just not how we play, but they were forcing us to do that. They were quick and on pucks and we made so many turnovers in the neutral zone and it was just counter, counter right down our throats.”
The third period saw an adjustment of wingers on all four lines as Teuvo Teravainen moved to the first line with Sebastian Aho and Nino Niederreiter, while Brock McGinn moved to the second line with Staal and Andrei Svechnikov. Necas moved to the third line with Haula and Dzingel, and Martinook moved to the fourth line with Warren Foegele and Lucas Wallmark.
The lines may or may not have paid off, as the Hurricanes managed to tie the game about seven minutes into the third. It’s a maybe because the Canes scored with a power-play unit still out on the ice, since although Montreal's penalty had expired, Carolina had managed to keep the Habs stuck in their own zone for extended time. The pressure mounted and Haula found a yawning cage and a fresh rebound sitting in front of him and making no mistake, he slammed it home.
“We just got to our game,” Brind’Amour said. “I don’t know if it was shaking of the lines or just guys between periods coming to realize that how we were playing wasn’t going to work, so give them a lot of credit for digging in or figuring it out and we came away with a win.”
Despite a few more chances each way, the game found its way to overtime, where Montreal made a strong case to end it, trapping Carolina in its own end for around two straight minutes. However, the Canes were able to hold on and send the game to a final shootout.
Hamilton was the first skater selected and the only one to score as he deked enough to get Price to open up, sliding the puck through his five-hole. Paul Byron, Jonathan Drouin and Nick Suzuki were all stopped by Mrazek as the Hurricanes won their first game of the season.
“It’s unreal,” Necas said. “Fans were just unbelievable. It was crazy and it was so loud. Maybe also because of them we won the third period and we won the game.”
The Hurricanes will play their next game on the road, taking on the Washington Capitals in DC with what will for sure be a physical bout on Saturday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m.