BUFFALO - The Carolina Hurricanes opened the preseason in dramatic fashion, topping the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 in overtime.
Derek Ryan scored two goals, including the game-winner, and added an assist on Josh Jooris' second-period goal to lead the way for the Canes.
Here are five takeaways from tonight's preseason opener.
1. The Canes know what they have in Derek Ryan, and this morning he said that the preseason wasn't as much about the wins and losses as it is about assessing individual games.
Tonight, he factored in to the Canes' first win of the preseason with a heck of an individual effort: three points (2g, 1a), a plus-2 rating and four shots on goal in just over 18 minutes of ice time.
Ryan opened the scoring at 8:25 of the first period on a delayed penalty sequence. Haydn Fleury displayed poise with the puck at the point before sliding it down to Jeff Skinner on the wing, who then fed Ryan in between the circles for the one-timer.
In the second period, Ryan raced down the ice with Jooris on a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush, and Jooris had the easy tap-in goal to briefly give the Canes a 2-1 lead.
Then, in the 3-on-3 overtime period, Ryan took a stretch pass from Trevor van Riemsdyk, skated past a downed Buffalo defender in alone and beat Linus Ullmark for the game-winner.
"It feels good to get a couple goals, for sure, even more so to get a win on the road with a pretty young lineup. Everyone played really well," he said. "I think everyone stepped up and played a great game."
"As an older guy, he doesn't take anything for granted," head coach Bill Peters said. "Gets us on the board early, gets the game-winner in OT 3-on-3, a real nice pass shorthanded. He factors in in all different scenarios. … He's a versatile guy … and a very smart player."
2. This morning, Peters cautioned against a penalty-filled contest, saying that's been the trend early in the preseason.
Sure enough, it continued to be the trend in Buffalo. The teams combined for 20 penalty minutes, 18 of which were in the first two periods alone. What resulted was sparse 5-on-5 action and choppy game flow in the first 40 minutes.
"A couple guys didn't play very much because they weren't on power play or penalty kill, and that's all that seemed to happen in the second period," Peters said. "In the third period, I thought the game got a little better flow."
"It was a little back-and-forth with the penalties and kind of broke the momentum and flow of the game a little bit, but we'll get used to that," Ryan said. "They're trying to crack down on that, so it's a learning curve for us and the referees. It will get better as the season goes along. It was a little choppy, but you've got to play through it."
Though the personnel differed from what we saw last season and what we'll see come opening night, the Canes' penalty kill picked up where it left off as one of the best in the league. Early in the second period, the Canes killed off a double-minor levied against Brock McGinn and held the Sabres to zero shots on goal in that four-minute stretch.
The Canes also tallied goals both on a delayed penalty sequence and shorthanded.
"We definitely got lots of work on the PK. Good practice," said Ryan, who wasn't billed as a penalty killer but ended up doing so in the second period because of the situation. "Our PK has been good for the last couple of years. It's just steady. We play our positions well, we know the system and the system works."
3. Martin Necas made his NHL preseason debut and was a plus-1 with one hit in just over 14 minutes of ice time.
"It's a pretty good feeling to play here with the guys. I enjoyed the game," he said. "I enjoyed every single shift."
"He's a real good player. I think it was just good for him to play in an NHL exhibition game, and things will start to slow down a little bit for him as it goes," Peters said. "He made some plays and was in good spots most of the night."
As we've seen since he was drafted 12th overall by the Canes this summer, Necas can fly in open ice and his instincts are already sharp.
"Pretty dynamic, for sure, especially when he gets the puck on his stick. He's fun to watch," Ryan said. "I can't imagine myself being 18 years old and having the courage to do that stuff in an NHL preseason game, so hats off to him for having the confidence. He can definitely pull it off. He's fun to watch, and I think that he's going to be a dynamic offensive player in this league for years to come."
And the smaller rink? Not a problem for Necas.
"I think it's maybe better to play on smaller ice. You make one move and you have a big chance," he said. "That's a big difference, and I like it maybe more."
4. As was planned, Jeremy Smith and Alex Nedeljkovic split the goaltending duties. Smith manned the crease for the first two periods and made 19 saves on 21 shots. Nedeljkovic was in between the pipes for the final 20 plus overtime and stopped all 14 shots he faced to snag the win in tonight's game.
5. Wins and losses are, ultimately, negligible in the preseason, but it certainly feels good to start out 1-0. If you're going to play the game, you might as well win it, right?
Tonight's game was a solid team effort that required the dutiful work of everyone in the lineup in all situations. The goaltenders were steady in the crease, the special teams won the head-to-head battle and the Canes leave Buffalo victorious.
It's off to Tampa Bay for the Hurricanes, who will square off with the Lightning in a home-and-home, back-to-back set beginning Tuesday night.