TORONTO - The Carolina Hurricanes were edged by the Washington Capitals, 3-2, in an exhibition match-up between the two divisional rivals.
Vincent Trocheck and Teuvo Teravainen found the back of the net for the Canes, while Alex Ovechkin netted two goals, including the game-winner, for Washington.
Here are five takeaways from Toronto.
1. Knocking the Rust Off
The result of the game was inconsequential, but the game in itself was anything but.
Wednesday afternoon's exhibition was, for all intents and purposes, a dress rehearsal for the Canes before they have to ramp up the intensity to jump into a best-of-five Stanley Cup Qualifier series against the New York Rangers this weekend.
The exhibition was a chance to fine tune this and that, to get back into game shape, to feel the puck and the ice in a game situation, to throw a body check and receive one back, to analyze and assess certain aspects of the team's game and individuals' games.
It's expected that what played out was a little sloppy, especially considering the more than four-month layoff since game No. 68.
"I didn't like too much, to be honest with you. I thought the third period was a little better. We started, I felt like, getting to more what our game should look like," head coach Rod Brind'Amour assessed. "I expected to be rusty, and we saw that in the first, really, two periods. That concerns a little, but I liked the fact that it looked like by the third we got our legs. … Overall, I think it's just good to get the rust off. We'll have some good teaching clips for tomorrow, and hopefully the rust is off as we move on."
Video: CAR Recap: Trocheck, Teravainen score in 3-2 loss
That sentiment was shared in the locker room.
"I feel like the most important thing was to get the legs going and get the feeling that you're actually playing hockey games again," Sebastian Aho said.
"Realistically, all we wanted to get out of this game was to get the rust off and realize how we want to play hockey," Trocheck said.
The Canes knew they would have tough lineup decisions to make come Game 1 of the Qualifiers, even when you consider the questionable statuses of both Dougie Hamilton and Martin Necas.
Since this was just one game and not an elongated preseason, the team was able to dress 13 forwards and seven defensemen, and ice time on the blue line was distributed fairly evenly.
"We've got a lot of decisions to make now," Brind'Amour said. "With a couple guys out, that makes it a little interesting, as well. I'm not sure if they're going to be back. The good news is we've put in this work. This game, we'll review it, and we've got two days to put the best lineup out there possible."
That goes for the goaltending, as well. Petr Mrazek started the game and made 13 saves on 16 shots in 32:25, and James Reimer turned aside all nine shots he faced in 26:05 in the second half of the game.
"Both guys, I thought, were good," Brind'Amour said. "I think Reims coming in cold was really good. That's a tough task to come in when you don't have any shots. He was good, and I thought Petr was good too. I'm happy with those guys, for sure."
3. Trocheck Stands Out
Brind'Amour thought most of his team struggled early, but one player who did stand out was Trocheck.
Trocheck, who was acquired from Florida at the trade deadline, played in just seven games before the pause. The break benefitted him maybe more than anyone.
"It's night and day from before the pause to now. It was kind of a blessing in disguise almost for me. Coming into a new system mid-season I found pretty tough to adjust to the system and new linemates," he said. "Over the break, I was able to get to know these guys off the ice a lot better and gain some chemistry with everybody as people and friends. I was able to learn the system."
Brind'Amour took notice.
"He was the one guy standing out for me," Brind'Amour said.
Trocheck got the Canes on the board first when he located a loose puck in the crease and tapped it in. The play had to be reviewed, as Nic Dowd intentionally knocked the net off its moorings before the puck went in the net. Thus, the goal was awarded to Trocheck.
Video: CAR@WSH: Trocheck sweeps home loose puck in crease
"To be able to get a goal and feel the rhythm of the game and the puck on your stick, it's obviously going to help you out a little bit confidence-wise," he said.
4. Special Teams Work
If there is ever a game during which a team would not mind taking penalties, it's an exhibition game. The Canes got to put both their power play and their penalty kill to work, putting into action concepts and strategies they've practiced for two weeks.
The end result? Not too bad. The Canes were 4-for-5 on the penalty kill, the one power-play goal they surrendered coming at the tail end of the Caps' man advantage, and the guy scoring it being perhaps the most lethal goal scorer in the game.
On a 5-on-3 advantage in the third period, Aho wheeled around the offensive zone and threaded the needle to Teravainen, who converted on his one-timer attempt. The Canes' power play finished 1-for-5 on the afternoon.
Video: CAR@WSH: Teravainen scores on two-man advantage
"Special teams are pretty big in playoffs," Aho said. "We did some things good on our PK, and it was nice to get one PP goal, too."
5. Hockey is Back
Even though it didn't count for anything, even though it was staged in an empty arena, even if all of this is a little weird, it felt good to have hockey back, didn't it?
There's plenty more to come, too. The 19-win quest for the Stanley Cup begins for the Canes on Saturday.
"It's been a long [time] off for our guys, and we haven't had a lot of scrimmage time. I expected it to look like that early," Brind'Amour said. "I was happy with how we kind of got going in the third. We'll definitely springboard off that."
The Canes and Rangers square off in a best-of-five Stanley Cup Qualifier series beginning Saturday at 12 p.m.