Slavin sends Hurricanes to shootout win over Wild
RALEIGH, N.C. — The Carolina Hurricanes celebrated their 20th season anniversary in style Saturday night.
Jaccob Slavin scored the only goal in the shootout and Scott Darling won his Carolina debut as the Hurricanes snapped a six-game winless streak in season openers with a dramatic 5-4 victory over the Minnesota Wild.
Playing in front of a sellout raucous crowd, a fan base that hasn’t had much to cheer about for close to a decade since winning the Stanley Cup in 2006 saw the depth that has many across the league believing that the Hurricanes are playoff contender this season.
“The trick for us is to realize our potential and max each other out and push each other in practice to get better,” coach Bill Peters said. “Our upside with this group is very high.”
Carolina’s season-opening victory didn’t come without some adversity. Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu scored with 0.3 seconds left in regulation with goalie Alex Stalock pulled for an extra attacker to tie the score at 4. The play was reviewed for possible goaltender interference on a wild scramble in front of Darling, but the ruling was upheld.
After a scoreless overtime period, Slavin beat Stalock with a backhander for the Hurricanes, who rallied three times in this game.
“What a great atmosphere we had in here today and it was great to be a part of it,” Peters said. “Confidence is a big part of any sport and this will give us confidence.”
“If you watched the way we played, I totally, 100 percent agree there is a new spirit on this team,” Slavin said. “There is a new feel, a lot of excitement, a lot of energy in the room and it showed out there on the ice.”
Sebastian Aho set up Carolina defenseman Noah Hanifin with 14:45 left in the third period to tie the score at 3. Aho then found Victor Rask racing down the right wing with 1:34 left in regulation to give the Hurricanes the lead before the final drama from Koivu.
Carolina got goals from three different lines, a defenseman and the shootout winner from one of its rising stars — Slavin.
“The strength of our team is we have four lines that can not only contribute but they can be dynamic lines,” said Derek Ryan, who scored Carolina’s second goal. “This organization has gone through a rebuild and we have depth, and that’s a big benefit to us.”
After losing at Detroit on Thursday night, Minnesota’s special teams improved dramatically in this one. The Wild registered a power-play goal in the first period from Jason Zucker and allowed only one shot midway through the period on a Carolina 5-on-3 that lasted 1:28.
Two minutes after the two-man disadvantage, Eric Staal, Carolina’s longtime captain who was traded in February 2016 before signing as a free agent with the Wild, beat Darling on a breakaway for his 354th career goal and a 3-1 lead. Zucker assisted on the Staal goal.
Ryan’s first of the season on the power play late in the second got Carolina to within 3-2. Hanifin jumped into the play from his defensive position and drilled a shot past Stalock (38 saves) after taking a centering pass from Aho.
The Wild twice took leads in the first with Zucker’s goal early on and then Chris Stewart adding one with 1:13 left in the period when he drove past Hanifin down the right wing and broke in alone on Darling, lifting a backhander past the goalie.
Carolina’s first-period goal came from its fourth line as Joakim Nordstrom was able to poke the puck past Stalock after a scramble in front of the net. Marcus Kruger assisted on the goal to earn his first point in a Hurricanes uniform after being acquired in July from Vegas.
But the Wild allowed 42 shots and lost a 3-1 lead.
“We were way too loose,” Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We’re not going to win a lot of games if we play like that. It’s not the right way to play, it’s not the way we practice — too loosey-goosey.”
NOTES: Carolina G Cam Ward didn’t start a season opener for the first time in his 13-year career. ... Minnesota RW Chris Stewart played in his 600th game. ... RW Mikael Granlund, last year’s leading scorer for the Wild who played in 81 games, was sidelined Saturday night with a lower-body injury. ... Hurricanes D Haydn Fleury, the team seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft, made his NHL debut on Carolina’s third defensive pairing with Trevor van Riemsdyk. ... Carolina C Elias Lindholm now wears No. 28 after giving his No. 16 jersey to former Chicago Blackhawk Marcus Kruger.