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The goal was the first for Hedican since January 2006 – a span of 76 games.
“It’s hard to explain the feeling because it’s been such a long road from last season, not being healthy, fighting through things and being frustrated with the way my body felt,” said the 37-year-old Hedican, in the final year of a six-year contract with the club. “I went home over the summer and tried to regroup to figure out if I could still play this game. I put in a lot of hard work and the goal is maybe just a little carrot somebody gave me to keep me moving forward.”
One point wasn’t the “goal” coming into the night, but the 'Canes had their chances to put this one away early, slowed down at the start of the third, then poured it on after Hedican blasted one past Cristobal Huet, who matched Cam Ward for sensationalism in net.
But Niclas Wallin was called for a cross-checking penalty 46 seconds into overtime, and Ward was beaten by Montreal captain Saku Koivu 18 seconds into the power play for a disappointing end to the opener.
“A couple bounces here or there,” said Erik Cole. “I thought we did a pretty good job getting pucks to the net and trying to get bodies there. We had things just bounce over our sticks or we were just inches away. Hopefully, we’ll get the bounces on Friday night (against Pittsburgh) and the guys won’t get too down and we’ll bring the same work ethic.”
The 'Canes allowed 38 shots in regulation, including 18 in the final period – way too many for coach Peter Laviolette’s liking.
“We gave up a little too much. We need to tighten that up,” the coach said.
Still, Hedican’s return to form was a joy to see. He played close to 19 minutes and had a team-high five of Carolina’s 26 blocked shots.
“For him to jump in on that play, it was a big goal – for him and our team,” said Laviolette. “It was nice to see.”
Hedican said he’ll savor every second of his career from here on out – not just the goals.
“It put a smile on my face tonight because I’m just trying to enjoy the moment, not look too far ahead and for sure not look behind me,” Hedican said. “I just want to build on this every day.”
|Erik Cole tipped in an Eric Staal shot from the point for a power play goal near the beginning of the first period
“Maybe we needed to get some better looks on the 5-on-3,” said Eric Staal. “But for the most part I felt we skated pretty good and had some chances.”
Staal said it’s always disappointing to take a penalty in overtime that ends up deciding a game.
“Yeah, but we’re got to stay out of the penalty box because their power play is pretty tight. We knew that,” he said.
Carolina dominated the first period, but went to the locker room tied after a fast-paced opening 20 minutes to the season.
Cole’s tip-in on a Staal shot from the point gave Carolina a power-play goal just 3:37 in, and that margin could have very easily been 3-0 over the next six minutes as Huet made a remarkable backhanded stick save on Ray Whitney’s attempt along the goal line and Rod Brind’Amour hit the post just 29 seconds into one of Montreal’s five penalties.
The Canadiens didn’t mount much of an offense against Ward, but did tie it with 6:54 left in the first when the Carolina goalie lost the puck from the point in traffic.
The Canes had a golden opportunity to forge ahead again before the break with a two-man advantage for 1:05. Carolina did get four shots on Huet, but couldn’t cash in.
Cory Stillman, who missed the opening to last season after shoulder surgery, was a late scratch because of a torso injury.