By Peter Koutroumpis
RALEIGH, N.C. – The building was full, the sellout crowd was boisterous, the beverages were flowing, and the end result culminated in exciting, end-to-end shinny play at PNC Arena on Thursday.
The Carolina Hurricanes battled back with a late goal from Jordan Staal, but eventually suffered a 2-1 overtime loss to the New York Islanders.
Josh Bailey’s snipe over goaltender Petr Mrazek’s shoulder ended it on the power play for the Islanders, just 43 seconds into the extra period.
It wasn’t a win, but the Hurricanes claimed a point, the loser point, to open the season in front of 18,680 in attendance.
“I thought it was a good game by the guys,” head coach Rod Brind’Amour said.
“I thought we did what we wanted to do. I thought we just kept goin’, goin’, goin’. Unfortunately you take a penalty late, in overtime that’s a tough one 4-on-3. They made a nice play and got the two points. But in my mind, you build on that. If we play that way every night, then we’ll have a good chance.”
Carolina’s play didn’t resemble the tactically structured lane movements that former head coach Bill Peters preached and maintained a vice-grip control of in recent years.
Instead, under rookie head coach Brind’Amour, who made his NHL debut leading the bench, the Hurricanes showcased a run-n-gun, track meet style of play that gives most coaches ulcers.
He liked what he saw.
The first five minutes were played at a frantic pace with Carolina hustling at both ends and kept the Islanders on the back ends of their blades.
The line of captain Justin Williams, Jordan Staal, and rookie winger Warren Foegele combined for a total of 11 shots on goal.
Dougie Hamilton finished with five shots, Sebastian Aho put four pucks on net while Brock McGinn, Andre Svechnikov, Valentin Zykov, and Brett Pesce fired three on as well.
The rubber was flying in Carolina’s favor, outshooting New York 46-20 throughout.
If it wasn’t for New York goalkeeper Thomas Greiss stopping everything during the first period as Carolina outshot the Islanders 16-7, the score would have reflected a true game of pick-up after 20 minutes.
Not once, but twice did the Hurricanes ring shots off the top right cross bar in the first – a snipe from defenseman Justin Faulk was followed by a shot off the iron from the rookie Svechnikov – along with another dinger that came later on.
“I thought we dominated them,” Foegele said.
“You can tell by the shots. We were aggressive and forced a lot of turnovers for them. It just happened that their goalie made some big saves. I don’t know how many posts we hit tonight, maybe three, four. We just didn’t get the bounces there.”
Led by new head coach and Stanley Cup-champion Barry Trotz, formerly with Washington, New York played a typical road game – survive the first period, and then attack in the second and maintain pressure in the third.
“They got it done,” Trotz said.
“We had some good goaltending and had a little bit of luck on our side, and we drew a penalty at the end that we took to our advantage.”
With ‘Take Warning’ towels in hand, Caniacs waved them and screamed continuously, and waited for the first goal of the season to go in.
They were ready and poised to spin them in the air to the tune of the team’s new goal song ‘Raise Up, sung by the night’s siren sounder, North Carolina rapper Petey Pablo.
However, they had to wait, and wait, and wait.
The Islanders silenced the crowd at the 9:27 mark of the second period when Valtteri Filppula slid the puck between Mrazek’s pads and put the Islanders ahead 1-0.
Up to that point, Mrazek was a wall, aggressively challenging outside of his crease on multiple plays, and moving the puck quickly to the D to start the breakout when he could.
He stopped 18 shots on the night.
“I think we did a good job in the defensive zone,” Mrazek said.
“We were getting pucks out quickly, making it easy for the goalie and the defensemen as well.”
The pace of play adjusted to the Islanders’ favor, even while Carolina kept pitching pucks towards Greiss.
The Hurricanes still trailed by a goal, scoreless after 40 minutes, despite outshooting the Isles 31-14 up to that point.
The three power play opportunities that the Hurricanes earned reaped no rewards.
With Luca Sbisa in the penalty box for playing with a broken stick at 6:57 in the third, Carolina had the ideal opportunity to even the score.
Keeping his lines intact for most of the game, Brind’Amour made some changes with eight minutes remaining.
The most intriguing was placing Svechnikov, Martin Necas, and Aho together, seeking to ignite a spark from a talented, young forward combo.
“With Svech, I was tryin’ to find a way to get him more ice time because he looked pretty good,” Brind’Amour noted.
“Marty was confident with the puck. These are teaching things and I’ll keep workin’ on it.”
That ‘Future Stars’ line skated, battled and scrambled for the puck, but couldn’t bulge the twine as regulation time continued to count down.
With Mrazek out of the net for the extra skater, the Hurricanes held the man-advantage for the final three minutes with the crowd roaring, waiting for a shot to get through.
Greiss continued to hold up his end in the New York net.
Then it happened!
Hamilton’s snapshot from the point made it past Greiss thanks to a redirect from Staal with 1:35 remaining.
The crowd erupted with a roar heard rarely in the building in recent years.
Even a review on the play couldn’t calm fans down as the replay on the screen showed a likely and eventual positive affirmation.
The score was tied 1-1.
The hype, the energy, and the effort were all there, and finally so was the finish.
Caniacs had been behind their team for the duration.
They stood up and finally got the chance to ‘raise up’ and celebrated the Hurricanes’ first goal of the season.
The decibel level didn’t lower, particularly when Micheal Ferland was called for tripping with 3.2 seconds remaining.
The horn soon sounded and both teams prepped for the overtime finish, a point in their pocket apiece.
Bailey’s game-winner then finalized a valiant effort that didn’t have the ending for the fans that the Hurricanes coach wanted.
However, he nor his team were disappointed or spoke negatively afterward.
“For me, it’s just a matter of trying to get better every day,” Brind’Amour said.
“Like the players, I made a ton of mistakes tonight. I’ll learn from those, but as long as you’re tryin’ your best and you’re prepared, and we were, I wouldn’t hang my head walkin’ out of here.”
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport