Hamilton, Hurricanes top Canadiens 4-3 in shootout
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Hurricanes rode a second-half surge all the way to the Eastern Conference final last season. They started their follow-up season with a strong finish to their first game.
Dougie Hamilton scored in the shootout, Petr Mrazek stopped three shots in the tiebreaker and the Hurricanes beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 on Thursday night in the teams’ opener after Erik Haula tied it with 13:05 left in regulation in his debut with the club.
“As a group, we played a lot better in the third, and we looked like the team we want to be in the third period,” Haula said. “You could feel it on the bench and see it on the ice.”
Martin Necas scored with the man advantage for a team that struggled in those situations during the postseason, Lucas Wallmark also scored, Hamilton had two assists and Mrazek made 33 saves.
They are hoping for a carryover of the late-season surge in 2018-19 that propelled them to their first playoff appearance since 2009. Carolina upset Washington and the New York Islanders before being swept by Boston.
Jordan Weal, Tomas Tatar and Jesperi Kotkaniemi each scored during a three-goal second period that erased an early 2-0 deficit, with the goals by Tatar and Kotkaniemi coming 1:04 apart. Carey Price stopped 40 shots for Montreal, which has earned at least one point in six straight openers, going 4-0-2 in that stretch.
“I was impressed, honestly, with the pace of this game from both teams,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien said. “It was a fast-paced game, it was hard-fought. ... No doubt, both teams were trying to make a point here. And at the end of the day, you like the effort of your team and (are) disappointed that a point slipped away, but it’s a hard-earned point on the road against a pretty good hockey club.”
Hamilton opened the shootout by deking Price before beating him with a wrist shot. Mrazek followed with three consecutive saves, stuffing rookie Nick Suzuki to end it.
The power play was a season-long struggle a year ago for Carolina, which managed just five goals with the man advantage during its entire 15-game postseason run and was 0 for its last 13 chances against the Boston Bruins.
“We’ve been practicing a lot,” Hamilton said. “We’ve got to keep practicing and see if we can do better than last year.”
Necas scored on the Hurricanes’ first chance of the new season with the man advantage, and Haula’s goal came 8 seconds after the expiration of the Canadiens’ minor for having too many men on the ice.
Haula, one of four players making their debuts with the Hurricanes after being picked up in a trade with Vegas, tied it when he stuffed in the rebound of Hamilton’s shot.
That goal came after the Canadiens’ second-period flurry was capped by Weal’s goal on an odd-man rush that made it 3-2.
Tatar started the surge by beating Mrazek with a wrist shot from between the circles on the power play at 4:18 of the second, and Kotkaniemi tied it at 2 at 5:22 off a rebound.
“I liked our effort. I liked our pace,” Julien said. “We’re down 2-0, we come back and tie it up. There’s a lot of good things to take from tonight.”
NOTES: Montreal D Cale Fleury had family in town for his NHL debut _ older brother Haydn is a defenseman with the Hurricanes. ... Cam Ward, the Conn Smythe Trophy-winning goalie on Carolina’s 2006 Stanley Cup champion team, sounded the siren that announces the Hurricanes’ entrance to the ice. Ward signed a one-day contract during the offseason to retire as a member of the team.
Canadiens: Continue their season-opening three-game road swing Saturday night at Toronto.
Hurricanes: Visit Washington on Saturday night in a rematch of their first-round playoff series.