Many questions surrounded the Carolina Hurricanes ahead of their season opener on Wednesday. Was Andrei Svechnikov going to make his return? Will they play a lineup that boasts six or seven defensemen? How will the new faces mesh with the veterans in Raleigh?
A few of those questions were answered for the time being, but the biggest evidence at PNC Arena was the Hurricanes’ love for opening night.
Carolina began their quest for a Stanley Cup by downing the Ottawa Senators 5-3 for their fifth-straight opening night win.
Brady Skjei, who was quite the talk among trade rumors this offseason, used a snipe to find the top left corner, beating Joonas Korisapo for what proved to be the game-winner in third period. Jordan Martinook tallied the assist in the sequence, poking the puck loose to allow Skjei to gain control.
With a 4-3 lead following Skjei’s score, defenseman Jaccob Slavin added insurance for Carolina, giving the game its final score at 5-3 with 9:05 remaining.
Not all was easy for the reigning Metropolitan Division champs on the night however, as Ottawa possessed a 1-0 lead at the first intermission. Forward Mathieu Joseph redirected home a shot attempt from Artem Zub just 3:14 into the season opener.
The next three goals would belong to Carolina with newly-minted Hurricane Michael Bunting and Teuvo Teravainen finding the back of the net in the second period.
With a one goal lead, captain Jordan Staal delivered a beautiful backhanded goal just 20 seconds into the third period, providing what many thought would be a big enough cushion to cruise to victory.
That would not be the case.
Ottawa did not go away quietly, using a shorthanded goal from Parker Kelly and a game-tying rocket from Tim Stutzle just 35 seconds apart to put the outcome in doubt.
Enter Brady Skjei and Jaccob Slavin, who helped Carolina secure two points on home ice.
Skjei was one of three defensemen in the lineup to tally a point, but one of just two Hurricanes to tally two points in the victory. Jordan Staal also secured a goal and assist in the win.
After both defenseman Jalen Chatfield and forward Brendan Lemieux were present for the morning skate and warmups, it was immediately unclear whether or not the Hurricanes lineup would hold 11 forwards and seven defensemen or 12 forwards and six defensemen.
Ultimately, it was the former that was correct, as Chatfield earned the spot in the lineup and Lemieux was the healthy scratch.
While Lemieux was the only new face in Raleigh to not earn a spot in the lineup, those who did find the ice made an immediate impact. Michael Bunting’s second period goal was the first score of the season for Carolina and emphasized why the former Maple Leaf was desired in Raleigh.
Tony DeAngelo, who comes to Carolina for the second time and has been lauded more for his offensive ability as a defenseman, recorded an assist on Bunting’s power play goal.
Ten different Hurricanes tallied points in the win, as Sebastian Aho, Seth Jarvis, and Martin Necas all earned assists.
The offense pestered Korpisalo in net, amassing 42 shot attempts.
Two underrated parts of the Hurricanes’ win was the play of Freddie Andersen and the successful penalty kill.
Early on, Carolina struggled to muster momentum and were outplayed in the opening 20 minutes. The play of Andersen, despite allowing two scores within 35 seconds in the third period, helped keep the Hurricanes in the game.
Andersen stopped 27 of the Senators’ 30 shot attempts to earn the win in net, including six while on the penalty kill.
Ottawa was successful in earning trips to the man advantage, but ultimately, the Carolina penalty kill was too much. The Senators were scoreless in four trips on the power play, highlighting the dominance and swarming of the Hurricanes’ line.
As for Andrei Svechnikov, who many had hoped would make his return seven months to the day after suffering a torn ACL, his debut will have to wait. Rod Brind’Amour announced that Svechnikov would not be ready and that he was not cleared by the team’s medical staff ahead of Wednesday night.
With the west coast road trip coming up, it’s possible that Svechnikov could return on Oct. 26th when the Hurricanes return home following six straight road contests.
Carolina returns to action on Saturday when they take on the Los Angeles Kings at Crypto.com Arena at 10:30pm EST.