Carolina
Hurricanes
40-31-11
Minnesota
Wild
39-35-8

31 SOG
29 SOG
1st2nd3rdT
CAR
MIN
game recap

Hurricanes 4, Wild 3

Tuesday, 06.19.2012 / 1:38 AM

Paul Branecky

On a team featuring four rookies, it was last season’s breakout stars that made the difference on opening night.

Brandon Sutter scored two goals and Jussi Jokinen had a goal and an assist for the Hurricanes as they defeated the Minnesota Wild 4-3 in the first game of the 2010 NHL Premiere in Helsinki, Finland.

Not that he ever doubted their ability to repeat and even build on last season’s success, but coach Paul Maurice was pleased that those two players chose to show it so soon.

“It was good because they get that confidence and grab some of that early,” he said. “Guys like (Eric) Staal can go three or four games without scoring and don’t start questioning themselves, but players that had big years come back and feel like they need to do something early to get that confidence.”

Sutter, who scored 21 goals in his sophomore season following a rookie campaign of just one, tied the game at 1-1 on the power play with just under 10 seconds remaining in the first period. That goal would set the tone for the Canes’ three-goal second, including his own encore that stood up to be the game-winner.

Neither goal was a beautiful finish – the first was a redirect that finished a nice passing play by Jokinen and Jamie McBain, while the second was one of a few unorthodox goals that were scored during the evening.

“I think I took a swing at it and missed it,” said Sutter of what happened after Patrick Dwyer sent him a centering feed from the right wing. “It just kind of went off my skate or something and kind of squeaked past the line.

“I got a couple of greasy ones, but that was fine by me.”

Jokinen could say the same of his goal, which made the game 3-2 midway through the middle frame. On a lengthy five-on-three power play that came with former Hurricane Matt Cullen taking the Wild’s second penalty in 10 seconds, Jokinen’s attempt to find Staal on the opposite side of the crease hit defenseman Nick Shultz’s skate and changed directions on goaltender Niklas Backstrom.

“That’s the first goal from Jussi I can remember that I didn’t think was exactly the way he designed it,” said Maurice.

None of that should take away from his setup of Sutter, a play that was also a good omen for McBain continuing his impressive play from last year, but Jokinen said that his goal in front of the appreciative Finnish fans created special feelings regardless of how it went in.

“I was pretty nervous there in the third period,” he said. “I don’t remember when I was that nervous, probably in the playoffs one and a half years ago. This win meant so much, especially playing in Finland.”

Carolina’s other goal was scored by defenseman Anton Babchuk, who gathered a rebound from Erik Cole from in close and roofed a backhand over the fallen Backstrom.

It was just one of three great scoring chances from the blue liner who last played for the Hurricanes two years ago but has shown increased confidence ever since his recent return from Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.

“I felt really comfortable today,” he said, having almost added to his total with a well-placed wrist shot from the short side and one of his trademark slap shots that ended up sitting on the goal line momentarily before being cleared. “The game is not different anywhere – if you play the game you play the game.”

“I thought his game kind of went with that offense,” said Maurice of Babchuk. “As soon as that happened, he became a better offensive player, stronger, made better use of his stick, was physical. Confidence is everything in anything.”

Rookie Zac Dalpe earned his first NHL point on the goal with his setup of Cole from behind the net. Dalpe was one of two Hurricanes making their NHL debuts along with Jeff Skinner, who was robbed by Backstrom on a great chance that would have made the game 5-2.

“It’s one of those things you’ve kind of got to get out of the way and focus on your game,” said Dalpe, who added that he did not feel nervous at any point during the game. “We got the win, so you’ve got to be smiling about that.”

If there’s anything the Canes won’t be smiling about heading into Friday’s rematch, it’s that they nearly let their 4-2 second intermission lead slip away by getting into penalty trouble late in the third period. The Canes were whistled twice in the game’s final 10 minutes, with the Wild’s Brent Burns creating some nervous moments with his late power play goal to bring the game within one.

Still, after having some offensive issues during the preseason that saw them score just 11 goals in six games, including four contests in which they scored just once during regulation time, they were happy to have had a two-goal cushion in the first place.

“There was a concern going in about our offense,” admitted Maurice. “Our offensive chances numbers were good and better than last year’s, we just weren’t converting. We’ll get as many guys as we can on the board in our first week and hope that carries over.”

Rounding out the home-ice experience for the Finns, Maurice said that, in addition to Jokinen, he was pleased with both Joni Pitkanen and Tuomo Ruutu’s games. Pitkanen had one assist and led all skaters with 27:35 of ice time to earn the game’s third star behind Sutter and Jokinen.  Ruutu did not find the score sheet but helped set a physical tone.

The Canes get one quick night to enjoy their win, and then it’s back to Hartwall Areena tomorrow to face a Wild team that won’t want to make the long trip home empty-handed.

scoring summary
1st Period
03:33
MIN
Guillaume Latendresse (1) Wrist shot - ASST: Mikko Koivu (1), Kyle Brodziak (1)
1 - 0 MIN
19:50
CAR
PPG - Brandon Sutter (1) Tip-in - ASST: Jussi Jokinen (1), Jamie McBain (1)
1 - 1 Tie
2nd Period
05:58
CAR
Anton Babchuk (1) Backhand shot - ASST: Erik Cole (1), Zac Dalpe (1)
2 - 1 CAR
09:52
MIN
PPG - Matt Cullen (1) Wrist shot - ASST: Marty Havlat (1)
2 - 2 Tie
11:16
CAR
PPG - Jussi Jokinen (1) Wrist shot - ASST: Joe Corvo (1), Joni Pitkanen (1)
3 - 2 CAR
18:03
CAR
Brandon Sutter (2) Deflected shot - ASST: Patrick Dwyer (1), Tim Gleason (1)
4 - 2 CAR
3rd Period
16:39
MIN
PPG - Brent Burns (1) Wrist shot - ASST: Antti Miettinen (1), Matt Cullen (1)
4 - 3 CAR
penalty summary
1st Period
10:38
MIN
Greg Zanon  Tripping against  Jussi Jokinen
19:15
MIN
Cam Barker  Interference against  Patrick Dwyer
2nd Period
00:47
CAR
Jay Harrison  Tripping against  Chuck Kobasew
09:15
CAR
Tim Gleason  Cross checking against  Andrew Brunette
10:29
MIN
Cam Barker  Holding against  Jussi Jokinen
10:39
MIN
Matt Cullen  Slashing against  Brandon Sutter
12:42
MIN
Greg Zanon  Hooking against  Eric Staal
3rd Period
00:51
CAR
Eric Staal  Tripping against  Mikko Koivu
12:41
CAR
Anton Babchuk  Hooking against  Cal Clutterbuck
15:11
CAR
Jamie McBain  Holding against  Guillaume Latendresse
goalie stats
Cam Ward
SA: 29TOI: 60:00
Saves: 26EV: 19 - 20
PIM: 0PP: 7 - 9
SV%: .897SH: 0 - 0
Niklas Backstrom
Niklas Backstrom
SA: 31TOI: 58:45
Saves: 27EV: 25 - 27
PIM: 0PP: 1 - 3
SV%: .871SH: 1 - 1