The Carolina Hurricanes won the first NHL game in 143 days, defeating the New York Rangers 3-2 in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Saturday.
"There was a lot of pent-up energy from a lot of players," Hurricanes forward Justin Williams said. "Months without playing a meaningful hockey game is tough for professional athletes. Both teams had a lot of intensity."
Henrik Lundqvist made 34 saves in his 128th consecutive postseason start for the Rangers. Rookie goalie Igor Shesterkin was expected to start before being ruled out Friday night.
[WATCH: All Rangers vs. Hurricanes highlights]
As part of the NHL Return to Play Plan, teams are not permitted to disclose player injury or illness information.
"I approached this camp to just be ready for anything, come well prepared, work hard and whatever they asked me to do I'll be ready for it," Lundqvist said. "Obviously, the plan was to play Igor. Last night, they told me I was going in. Things like that happen. I feel for Igor, and we'll see what happens here in the next couple of days, but I'm just happy I got an opportunity."
Game 2 of the best-of-5 series is in Toronto, the Eastern Conference hub city, on Monday (Noon ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, SN360, TVAS, FS-CR, MSG). The series winner advances to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Jaccob Slavin and Sebastian Aho each had a goal and an assist, and Petr Mrazek made 24 saves for the Hurricanes, the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. Carolina was 7-for-7 on the penalty kill.
"I don't think we can take that many penalties and go deep in the playoffs doing that," Slavin said. "Our penalty kill did a good job, but it just kills the momentum of the game. Our 5-on-5 game is where we succeed really well. We just have to stay out of the box. We got fortunate."
The Hurricanes lost four games to the Rangers by a combined score of 17-9 before the NHL season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. Lundqvist started the first three of those games.
"Previous seasons against Henrik, we haven't had the most success," Slavin said. "We got [the puck] behind him early and kept going at that. … I felt like we played really well the whole game. It was definitely a confidence booster for the whole team."
Mika Zibanejad and Marc Staal scored for the Rangers, the No. 11 seed in the East.
Slavin gave the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead 1:01 into the first period, scoring from the left circle off a pass from Teuvo Teravainen.
The goal came 29 seconds after Rangers forward Jesper Fast was hit by Hurricanes defenseman Brady Skjei. Fast went to the locker room after Slavin's goal and did not return. There was no update on his status.
"They get the goal because [Fast] really doesn't have his wits about him," Rangers coach David Quinn said. "Slavin goes backdoor. That's a play [Fast] usually makes. He's just not mentally ready to make it. He's hurt, so they get the first goal."
Video: Hurricanes take 1-0 series lead vs. Rangers
Aho scored a power-play goal to make it 2-0 at 6:29 of the second period, on a deflection from the slot off a one-timer pass from Andrei Svechnikov.
Zibanejad made it 2-1 scoring on a deflection at 14:26 of the second.
The Rangers had eight shots on goal on their seven power plays, with each opportunity in the first two periods.
"I feel like they outcompeted us, really," Zibanejad said. "We didn't really click. I don't think we were able to get on the same page. We had some OK chances, but we couldn't establish a good power play and get some momentum from it."
Necas scored on a one-timer from the left circle that went in off Staal's skate at 10:51 of the third period to give Carolina a 3-1 lead.
Staal scored a shorthanded goal to make it 3-2 at 18:05.
"We've all had a lot of time to prepare for this game, so, I think the leadup to it, the guys were ready to play something for real," Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "Haven't had that opportunity in a long, long time and just wanted to take advantage of it. So, I think the guys were really excited and grateful to play for something that meant something. I thought we had a good game and came out really strong."
There hasn't been a best-of-5 series in the NHL since 1986. The League used them for the preliminary round of the playoffs from 1980-86, and the team that won Game 1 went on to win the series 87.5 percent of the time (49 of 56).
"There was a lot of emotion, and it was good to see that we responded," Williams said. "We won the first game, but that only means we're up 1-0."
NHL.com staff writer Pete Jensen contributed to this report