By Peter Koutroumpis
TORONTO, ONTARIO – Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour had been saying it was a clean slate that every team started with heading into the 2020 NHL postseason.
His players scribed the first notes for the league’s return-to-play with an energetic, physical and productive 3-2 win over the New York Rangers at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday.
For many prognosticators, the Rangers’ 4-0 regular-season record over the Hurricanes led to predictions of another win, particularly with goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (34 saves) in net – extending a run of 128 consecutive career playoff starts – the third-longest such streak in NHL history, behind Martin Brodeur (194 – New Jersey Devils) and Patrick Roy (137 with Montreal/Colorado).
However, a high-level performance in goal from starter Petr Mrazek (24 saves) allowed equally effective special teams finishes at both ends that enabled Carolina to claim a 1-0 series lead on the Rangers.
Defenseman Jaacob Slavin, along with forwards Sebastian Aho and Martin Necas tallied goals past Lundqvist while Mika Zibanejad and Marc Staal provided the only scoring production for New York despite a late-game surge to tie the game.
“”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,” 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.”
Slavin’s game-opening snipe was his first career playoff goal in 16 postseason games. In the 2019 First Round, Slavin led the team with nine assists to set a franchise record for assists in a series…His goal at the 1:01 mark of the first period was the NHL’s first-ever regular-season or playoff goal scored in the month of August, and the fourth-fastest goal from the start of a playoff game in Hurricanes/Whalers franchise history behind Warren Foegele (0:17 on April 18, 2019), Erik Cole (0:25 on May 13, 2002) and Matt Cullen (0:50 on April 22, 2006)… Necas’ game-winning goal was his first in his first postseason game. Only two other players in Hurricanes/Whalers history have netted the game-winner while making their postseason debut: Erik Cole (April 17, 2002) and Sylvain Turgeon (April 9, 1986).
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport