RALEIGH — It was a reunion in Raleigh on Super Bowl Sunday, with three former Hurricanes players plus old coach Bill Peters returning to PNC Arena for the first time since all four departed for Calgary in the offseason. It was also the second chance for Carolina’s two former Flames to play their old team.
Current and former Hurricanes factored in all seven goals, but the game ended with returning son Elias Lindholm saluting the Carolina crowd of 12,621 with a mock Storm Surge clap after the Flames came away with a 4-3 win.
It was a cross-conference game that was really about banking points for the Hurricanes. But unlike their visit to Calgary, the Hurricanes’ late goal with goalie Petr Mrazek pulled only reduced the Flames’ lead to one — and it was Lindholm, Derek Ryan and Noah Hanifin all scoring and, more importantly, leaving Carolina with two points.
“We know where we are in the standings, and we want to win every game and get as many points as we can and try to get in the playoffs, obviously,” said Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton, who scored in both of his games against his old team. “It sucks when we lose.”
The Hurricanes opened the scoring on a partial line change, with Sebastian Aho and former Flame Micheal Ferland executing a tic-tac-toe sequence to Teuvo Teravainen to make it 1-0 just four minutes into the game.
The Flames answered about four minutes later when, with Nino Niederreiter in the box for roughing, a Sean Monahan point shot hit Lindholm’s shin and got past Mrazek (28 saves) to tie the game at 7:58.
Just before the game’s midway point, Ryan broke the tie with a nifty wraparound effort, his fifth goal of the season, to make it 2-1 at 7:39 of the second.
Then Carolina’s struggling power play made the situation worse by allowing a goal.
Ryan was again instrumental, leading a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush and feathering a perfect pass to Garnet Hathaway for an easy tap-in at 12:34 of the second to push the lead to two.
“I think the difference in the game, it’s clear to me, is the power play giving up a shorthanded goal,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “That’s not acceptable and that’s the difference in the game.”
Carolina cut Calgary’s lead to one late in the middle frame when the Flames had a defensive zone breakdown and Lucas Wallmark found Hamilton alone at the right circle with time to pick his spot, ripping a shot past Daniel Rittich (34 saves) on the short side to make it 3-2 with 93 seconds left in the second.
But Hanifin’s goal with less than seven minutes remaining in the game proved to be the insurance Calgary needed.
Brind’Amour challenged due to Calgary winger James Neal’s contact with Mrazek, but the goal was confirmed. The Carolina coach admitted he didn’t think Neal’s contact warranted interference, but an early-game penalty on Hurricanes rookie Andrei Svechnikov for goaltender interference had Brind’Amour admitting post-game that coaches can “never figure that out.”
Aho scored in the final minute to make things interesting — he scored in both games against the Flames with the goalie pulled — but the Hurricanes were unable to get an equalizer as they did in earning a point in Calgary.
It was a final result that left captain Justin Williams frustrated — and perhaps still simmering at Peters for not giving him the “C” last season.
“I was really fired up today. I was a little bit more amped up than usual,” Williams said. “But these are all big games for us. This is certainly two that slipped away that we feel we could’ve had, both games against them. But we can’t let it derail us from what we’re going to do here next.”