Necas leads Hurricanes to 1-0 OT win over Lightning in home opener

Hurricanes taxi squad makes debut at PNC Arena

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network
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Peter Koutroumpis

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RALEIGH, N.C. – An overtime goal from Martin Necas ignited an exuberant celebration by the Carolina Hurricanes, 1-0 winners over the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning at PNC Arena on Thursday.

Goaltender  Petr Mrazek stopped all 32 shots he faced and posted his 23rd career shutout, and second in three starts this season.

At the other end, Andrei Vasilevskiy made 34 stops for the Lightning, but gave up Necas’ redirect on a low-slot feed from Jordan Staal that gave Carolina the win in extra time.

“Our plan was to keep the shifts short as possible,” Necas pointed out.

“That way we had a little more energy – I thought we were buzzing In the first period. Then the second one they had a little bit bigger momentum than we did. Then the third one was kind of even. Then fortunately we scored that one (in overtime) and got the two points.”

Welcome home

It was the Hurricanes’ first game coming out of a recent 10-day COVID-19 protocol shutdown and following their first three games on the road.

It was also their home opener – an atypical and surreal one at that.

Nobody, or more accurately, very few, were there thanks to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

The music and pre-recorded crowd noise was pumping as opening puck drop approached, but without the buzz of the sold out live mass of Caniac humanity that is normally in the building, it all just echoed into the rafters.

The Hurricanes’ effort didn’t though, especially without regulars Warren Foegele, Jordan Martinook, Teuvo Teravainen, and Jaccob Slavin – all still out due to COVID-19 league protocols.

As a result, a majority of the team’s taxi squad stepped in to fill those voids.

Taxi!

Forward Steven Lorentz made his NHL/Hurricanes debut and finished the game with one shot on goal, two hits and a takeaway in just under 15 minutes of playing time.

Carolina’s seventh round pick (186th overall) in the 2015 NHL Draft, Lorentz came into the game with 55 points (26g, 29a) in 93 career AHL (Charlotte).

Forwards Sheldon Rempal and Max McCormick also made their Hurricanes debuts skating in with prior NHL experience.

Rempal played seven games with Los Angeles in 2018-19, while McCormick skated in 71 games with Ottawa from 2015-18.

Defenseman Jake Bean filled in on the blue line and contributed just under 12 minutes of steady play.

Getting after it

From a broad perspective in watching this one, one view was that it was sloppy early and throughout.

It didn’t display the entire depth of skill that both these teams possess in puck possession and movement.

Proof of that was a combined 0-7 finish on the power play – Carolina with four missed opportunities with the man advantage to Tampa Bay’s three.

You could have accounted soft ice causing excessive puck bounces for that or a little rust working it’s way off from both sides.

Or you could have chalked it up to two teams playing tough defense, trying to minimize mistakes while two goalies made great stops over 60 minutes of regulation play.

“ Great goaltending performance by both guys,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said.

“We had a lot of Grade-A chances; I was really, really impressed with the way we played. Came out hard for 60 minutes – we were good. Obviously you’re playing the best team in the world and we went toe-to -toe with them. They made some real good plays where Petr had to come up big,and we had some real good plays in there too. Their goalie was really good.”

Back to the grind

Even with a 10-day hiatus, Carolina added another win to their sheet, standing at 3-1 so far this season.

They won’t have much time to relax before their next string of games, a back-to-back home stand that continues Saturday through Sunday against Dallas.

Even while being off for so long during this shortened, accelerated season, this group showed the resilience required to earn a win under adverse conditions.

“It was kinda like starting the season all over again,” Staal said.

“Roddy did a real good job of making sure we were on the attack – to get into it right away, and get after them. With that long break, I thought we jumped on and found our legs real quick and found a way to win.”

Notables: Carolina went 0-for-4 on the power play and is 3-for-16 (18.8%) on the man-advantage this season. The Hurricanes were 3-for-3 on the penalty kill and are 11-for-12 (91.7%) on the kill this season…Mrazek became the second different goaltender in franchise history to record a shutout in the team’s home opener, joining Sean Burke (10/7/95 vs. NYR, 10/5/96 vs. PHX). Mrazek is the first goaltender to shut out the Lightning since March 2019.

Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport