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Recap: Canes Top Wild in Shootout on Opening Night

Slavin scores shootout-deciding goal in 5-4 win

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes / CarolinaHurricanes.com

The Carolina Hurricanes opened the 2017-18 regular season in dramatic fashion with a 5-4 shootout win over the Minnesota Wild.

Victor Rask scored in the final two minutes of the game to give the Hurricanes a 4-3 lead, but Mikko Koivu's goal in the last second of regulation forced extra hockey. Jaccob Slavin scored the lone shootout goal to lift the Canes to victory.

Here are five takeaways from Opening Night.

One

Well, that was fun, wasn't it?

It was a game that should have concluded in regulation, but two points are two points, and tonight the Hurricanes found a way to emerge victorious.

"Confidence is a big part of any sport, and I think this will give us confidence. We entered the third period trailing … and scored twice," head coach Bill Peters said. "Should have put it away, but give them credit. They scored with the clock winding down, but we found a way to get the extra point."

"It's huge to get those first two points in the first game of the season. We battled all night long," Slavin said. "Darls played a heck of a game for us. We found a way to get the two points at the end."

Video: MIN@CAR: Slavin nets nifty backhand for lead in SO

It's just one game, but contrast this performance with previous years.

"Just compared to last year, I feel like that's a game we would have found a way to lose, whereas winning teams, good teams … they find a way to win these games, and that's what we did," Derek Ryan said.

Two

So let's break down what exactly went down tonight in what was a back-and-forth contest.

Minnesota opened the scoring in the first period on the power play via Jason Zucker, who cut to the middle in open ice and tapped in a pass from Matt Dumba. Five minutes later, the Hurricanes scored - or, rather, were credited with - their first goal of the season when Koivu tapped in a loose puck in the slot after Joakim Nordstrom had touched it last.

Video: MIN@CAR: Nordstrom puts the Hurricanes on the board

Chris Stewart gave the Wild a one-goal lead before the end of the period, and Eric Staal scored his first goal against his old team to stretch Minnesota's lead to two in the second period. Ryan tipped home a shot off the stick of Justin Williams on a second-period power play to slice the Wild's lead in half.

"That's kind of the play we were trying to make," Ryan said. "We've scored like that a couple times in practice."

And then there was the third period. The Canes hit their stride and within the first six minutes of the final 20, they had tied the game. All five Wild defenders became dazed by Sebastian Aho's stickhandling - it's not hard to see why, really - and the Finnish forward was able to dish off to Noah Hanifin, who snuck in from the point for the tally.

Video: MIN@CAR: Hanifin nets Aho's backdoor feed to tie game

Three

The end of the game needs its own takeaway because it was that bananas.

Again it was Aho with the gorgeous primary assist, as he spun off a defender and hit a streaking Victor Rask for the go-ahead goal.

"He's a very skilled player, and he's got great vision out on the ice," Slavin said. "Fishy is a really good player, and he's able to make those passes with ease."

Video: MIN@CAR: Rask one-times Aho's feed for the lead

Then, with just 0.3 seconds left on the clock, through absolute mayhem in the crease, Koivu spotted a loose puck and banged it in before the horn. Officials reviewed the goal for goaltender interference, but somehow ruled none, despite the fact that Scott Darling would have had to bulldoze his way through Dumba and Ryan Suter in order to make the save.

"The last one, he didn't have an opportunity to play his position," Peters said. "That's obvious."

But, to the Canes credit, they didn't let the last-second tally deflate the energy.

"We can't control it," Ryan said. "No sense in getting mad about it."

"You've just got to focus on what's next," Slavin said. "Obviously there's nothing you can do about it after it goes in, so we just had to focus on overtime."

"You just had to move on," Peters said. "You look at it and think, well, it's probably not going to count. Then it does count. You've just got to play."

There were a few chances at either end during 3-on-3 overtime, but a shootout was necessary to settle the final score. Darling stopped all three shots he saw in the skills competition, including a last save on Staal, and Slavin scored the lone goal on his patented backhand move.

Video: MIN@CAR: Darling denies Staal for SO win

"Shhh," Peters whispered when asked when the league would read the book on Slavin's shootout repertoire. 

Four

Playing their first game in a week, the Hurricanes settled into the season opener and got better as the 60 minutes progressed. The Wild, having already played once, were the more coherent team early, but the Canes deserved the two points they came away with tonight.

"I thought everyone got better as the game went along," Peters said. "You could tell early that we didn't have a lot of timing, and it didn't look like we were quite in sync, but it got better as we went."

"First period I thought we were a little rusty. We were able to shake that off," Ryan said. "That's a tough team to come back on. They're a tough, stingy, defensive team. They're up 3-1 on you, and they're going to try to lock it down. … Definitely a lot of character to battle back. I think we have a special group here."

There are still 81 regular-season games to be played, but considering the way in which the Canes battled back, considering the way in which the Canes were able to fight through momentum shifts and late adversity, considering the way in which the Canes found a way to grab a win, it's hard not to be excited about this group's potential.

"We have that feeling in the locker room," Ryan said.

"I think there's a whole different feel to our group, to be honest with you," Peters said. "The trick is going to be to realize our potential, max each other out and push each other in practice to get better. Our upside with this group is very high."

Five

Opening Night is always special, but there was a distinct energy in the air tonight at PNC Arena. It began with the drive in, as tailgates scattered about the lawns and parking lots. Fans then lined the glass to see this year's Hurricanes squad take the ice for the first time in warm-ups, and the hype continued to build from there. Erik Cole whipped the crowd into a frenzy on the warning siren, and the building was buzzing as each player was introduced.

That energy was palpable throughout the game - and the Canes took notice.

"Yeah, that's probably the best I've had since I've been here," Slavin said. "It's a lot of fun."

"It's important to win," Peters said. "It was a great atmosphere here today, and it was enjoyable to be a part of."

"It was exciting. I've never seen a crowd like that in PNC," Ryan said. "I obviously haven't played a ton of games here, but it was exciting to be a part of that and see the excitement that was probably here during the Stanley Cup runs and playoffs. If we continue to have success, we'll continue to have that energy in the building and feed off that."

Up Next

The Hurricanes host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday.

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