Fans returned to PNC Arena for the first time in over a calendar year, and the Carolina Hurricanes gave them something to cheer about by scoring four unanswered goals, including three in the third period, to power past the Detroit Red Wings, 5-2.
Jordan Staal recorded three points (1g, 2a), including the game-winning goal, while five other Canes skaters posted multi-point nights.
HIGHLIGHTS | STATISTICS
It took 40 minutes, but the Canes finally came alive in the third period.
"We weren't happy with the first two periods. We felt like the energy was low for us. We didn't have the momentum," Jesper Fast said. "Before the third period, we decided we wanted to take charge. Right from the drop of the puck, we showed that."
The Canes claimed their first lead of the game just 45 seconds into the final stanza and 125 seconds later, the same reshuffled line doubled the advantage.
On an electric shift to open the period, Dougie Hamilton banged a shot off Fast in front of the net. The puck popped out to Jordan Staal, and he scored on the put-back. The goal was Staal's eighth of the season and first since Feb. 17.
Video: DET@CAR: Staal gets rebound in the slot and buries it
On the next shift for the new-look Svechnikov-Staal-Fast trio, Andrei Svechnikov dangled around a defender and slid a pass over to Fast for an easy tap-in.
Video: DET@CAR: Fast buries a nifty pass from Svechnikov
"We just decided we had to get to our game. We were just fighting it the whole night trying to find an easier way. We were fortunate to be tied going into the third. Then, the guys just started playing. You could see it," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "Svech and Jordo, that line, they kind of took over early."
While the Canes were struggling to find their game for the first 40 minutes, Nedeljkovic was on his. He made 33 saves on 35 shots to earn his second consecutive and improve to 2-0-1 at home this season.
In the second period, when the Canes were trailing 2-1, Nedeljkovic denied Anthony Mantha's breakaway opportunity, a save that quite possibly saved the game for the Canes.
Video: DET@CAR: Nedeljkovic makes save on Mantha
Nedeljkovic owns a 4-2-1 record on the season with a 2.26 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage.
It was a long time coming, but the brothers Svechnikov finally faced off for the first time, and Andrei comes away with bragging rights.
"He was excited. You could tell with his game, as well. He wanted to win," Staal said. "He's a guy who won't take no for an answer. He's going to go do whatever he can to help win games. To beat your brother, as well, I'm sure was icing on the cake for him."
It took the Canes just six seconds to strike on their first power play of the game on Tuesday in Nashville. Two nights later, the league's fourth-ranked power play needed only seven seconds to dent the scoreboard and tie the game at one in the first period.
As he tends to do, Staal won the offensive-zone faceoff to begin the power play. Hamilton walked the puck along the blue line to the middle of the ice before dishing off to Svechnikov atop the left circle. Svechnikov stepped in and fired a laser wrist shot labeled for the far-side corner. Vincent Trocheck had the screen in front, and all he had to do was admire the shot.
Video: DET@CAR: Svechnikov cashes in on the power play
The goal was Svechnikov's first non-empty-net goal in a month.
"Svech did what he had to do tonight. Got us going in the first, and then a really good third period. He was dominant, I felt," Brind'Amour said. "He was good."
Down a goal late in the second, the Canes were in search of another equalizer to establish some sort of momentum heading into the third period.
From below the goal line, Nino Niederreiter spotted Necas in the high slot. Niederreiter's pass was deflected, but the puck still got to Necas, who rifled a perfectly placed shot into the upper-left corner of the net.
Video: DET@CAR: Necas rips a shot over Bernier's shoulder
From there, the Canes added three more goals in the third to finish with four unanswered.
It had been 370 days since cheers and boos and woos filled PNC Arena, and even with 15% of capacity in attendance, what a difference it made in the game atmosphere. From the cheer at warm-ups to the aural anticipation as the team hit the ice for puck drop to the roar when the Canes took control in the third period, it was almost - just almost - like things were almost normal. Almost.
"It was almost like a playoff game compared to what we were playing with before. It was great. They were loud," Staal said. "It definitely brought some new life to the building that the boys were really excited about. Happy to see some fans and happy to get back to some normalcy."
Video: Hurricanes perform first Storm Surge of the season
"It was definitely noticeable that there were some people there. They were certainly cheering and doing their best," Brind'Amour said. "There was definitely some emotion in the building. We gave them something to cheer about, which was nice."
Brind'Amour registered his 100th victory as a head coach in the National Hockey League, and Staal awarded him the game puck in the locker room.
"I was like, 'What for?' Then they told me. I had no idea. That was nice of them," a humble Brind'Amour chuckled. "It's 100. I mean, what's the top guy got? Like, a couple thousand? Peanuts in the grand scheme of things. It was nice of the guys to recognize it."
Brind'Amour is the fastest coach in franchise history to reach the milestone.
2,924: At 15% of PNC Arena capacity, the Canes' announced attendance of 2,924, the first game with fans back in the building in over a calendar year, is a sell-out.
16-6-1: At 16-6-1, the Canes have posted their best record through 23 games in franchise history. Yes, even better than that season.
15: Hamilton posted two assists and leads the team with 15 helpers this season. The Canes' defenseman is now riding a four-game assist streak.
Quote of the Night
"Man, it's not good for you, I don't think, this coaching thing. It can't be healthy." - Rod Brind'Amour
The Canes will now enjoy a two-day gap in between games for the first of four times this month. The Florida Panthers come to town on Sunday.