|MTL||0||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||3|
|CAR||0||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||2|
A win didn’t come on opening night in front of a large crowd helping get the 10th anniversary season kick-started for the Carolina Hurricanes. But one major positive did surface from a 3-2 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night.
Bret Hedican, a major question mark three months because of a rash of career threatening injuries, tied the game up with 7:12 left in his return to the ice and played more than solid on defense to start his 16th NHL season.
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.”
The second period was filled with a dozen or so near misses and a second futile 5-on-3 opportunity as Carolina kept the heat on Montreal and Huet. The 'Canes’ short-handed unit also came up big, killing off a four-minute high sticking penalty to Ryan Bayda midway through the period to keep the score deadlocked at 1-1.
“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.
David Droschak is the former sports editor for the North Carolina bureaus of the Associated Press, the largest news-gathering organization in the world. In 2003, Droschak was named the North Carolina Sportswriter of the Year. The only writer in the Triangle to have covered the Carolina Hurricanes every season since the organization moved to North Carolina, he currently is a principal in the Raleigh-based public relations firm Hughes-Droschak Communications.
|PPG - Eric Staal (1) ASST: Scott Walker (1), Frantisek Kaberle (1)|
1 - 0 CAR
|PPG - Mark Streit (1) ASST: Alex Kovalev (1), Andrei Markov (1)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - Saku Koivu (1) ASST: Andrei Markov (2)|
2 - 1 MTL
|Bret Hedican (1) ASST: Justin Williams (1), Rod Brind'Amour (1)|
2 - 2 Tie
|PPG - Saku Koivu (2) ASST: Chris Higgins (1), Michael Ryder (1)|
3 - 2 MTL
|Alex Kovalev Hooking against Tim Gleason|
|Michael Ryder Holding against Craig Adams|
|Andrew Ladd Holding the stick against Alex Kovalev|
|Mike Komisarek Hooking against Eric Staal|
|Mark Streit Holding against Andrew Ladd|
|Rod Brind'Amour Interference - Goalkeeper against Cristobal Huet|
|Patrice Brisebois Delaying Game - Puck over glass|
|Bryan Smolinski Interference against Craig Adams|
|Chris Higgins Delaying Game - Puck over glass|
|Ryan Bayda Hi stick - double minor against Patrice Brisebois|
|Bret Hedican Hooking against Saku Koivu|
|Ryan Bayda Too many men on the ice|
|Niclas Wallin Tripping against Guillaume Latendresse|
|Steve Begin Roughing against Rod Brind'Amour|
|Rod Brind'Amour Roughing against Steve Begin|
|Niclas Wallin Cross checking against Tomas Plekanec|
|SA: 31||TOI: 61:05|
|Saves: 29||EV: 22 - 23|
|PIM: 0||PP: 7 - 8|
|SV%: .935||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 40||TOI: 61:01|
|Saves: 37||EV: 26 - 26|
|PIM: 0||PP: 11 - 14|
|SV%: .925||SH: 0 - 0|