Stanley Cup Final has familiar faces

Game 1 reminiscent of 2006, when Hurricanes rallied for win

Charles LeClaire—USA TODAY Sports
Matt Cullen (7) is one of three players and several coaches and executives with ties to the Hurricanes' organization.

Peter Laviolette and Jim Rutherford had seen this before. Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final and one team is out to a commanding 3-0 lead. Back in 2006, The Hurricanes — with Laviolette on the bench and Rutherford, the general manager, watching their team from on high — rallied to tie the game and eventually won, 5-4, on captain Rod Brind’Amour’s goal with 31 seconds left.The Stanley Cup Final has a very yellow tinge this year, with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators facing off to determine the NHL’s 2016-17 champion, but Monday’s Game 1 felt a lot like that final round opener 11 years ago. This time, though, Laviolette and Rutherford were on different sides.Laviolette is coaching the Predators, the third team (along with Philadelphia) he’s led to the NHL’s final two. Rutherford “retired” from Carolina in late April 2014, but re-emerged as the Penguins GM just a little more than a month later. He led Pittsburgh to the Cup last season and is on the cusp of winning his third title this year.Laviolette — who’s had longtime assistant Kevin McCarthy at his side since their days together in Raleigh — saw Nashville have their first goal waved off after a coach’s challenge determined the Predators were offside, then watched on as the Penguins scored three times to take a big lead.Then everything dried up for Pittsburgh.The defending champs went 37 minutes without recording a shot on goal, and Laviolette’s Predators chipped away at the lead until it was tied. But unlike 2006, the coach didn’t get the final result. Pittsburgh’s Jake Guentzel — on the Penguins first shot on net since Nick Bonino’s first goal gave them a three-goal cushion — scored with 3:17 remaining in what proved to be the game-winner in a 5-3 final.It was a loss for Laviolette and Nashville, but not for Rutherford and a handful of other people with Hurricanes ties on the Penguins’ side.Defenseman Ron Hainsey had famously never reached the playoffs before being traded from Carolina to Pittsburgh at this season’s trade deadline. He played his 20th postseason game with the Penguins Monday night, a total that is now more than all but three players under contract with the Hurricanes next season: Jordan Staal (73), Cam Ward (41) and Lee Stempniak (28). Of those three, only Ward has played a postseason game with Carolina.Coincidentally, Rutherford, then with Carolina, traded with Pittsburgh for Staal in the summer of 2012, and one of the pieces that went to the Penguins was prospect Brian Dumoulin. Dumoulin, a 2009 second-round pick by the Hurricanes, has emerged as one of the Penguins’ most reliable defensemen and leads the team in ice time this postseason at 21:49 per game (Hainsey is second at 21:08).Joining them on the Penguins is Matt Cullen, at 40 the oldest player in this year’s playoffs and the third oldest in the NHL this season (Jaromir Jagr, 45; Shane Doan, less than a month older than Cullen). Cullen, like Rutherford, is in search of his third Cup — he won with Carolina in 2006 and rejoined Rutherford in Pittsburgh last year to help the Penguins to the title. He played his 44th career playoff game with Pittsburgh Monday, one more than the 43 he accumulated in 2006 and 2009 with the Hurricanes.Both Cullen and Dumoulin had primary assists in Monday’s win.Rutherford also brought some familiar faces to the Penguins front office. Jason Karmanos, son of Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos Jr., is vice president of hockey operations, a job he took after he was fired by his father in 2013 as Carolina’s assistant general manager following a personal falling out. Mark Recchi, who won Cups in Pittsburgh, Carolina (as a deadline rental) and Boston, returned to the Penguins in 2014 as a player development coach.While the national and Canadian media hone in on big names like Sidney Crosby and P.K. Subban, hockey fans in North Carolina can focus on the players, coaches and executives who once called Raleigh home. The emotions of who to root for can be as wild as a Game 1.