The Carolina Hurricanes scored in the opening four minutes and then in the final three, adding a cherry-on-top empty-net goal in their season-opening 3-0 win over the Red Wings in Detroit.
Nino Niederreiter, Ryan Dzingel and Andrei Svechnikov scored for Carolina, while Petr Mrazek started his season with a shutout win.
1. It took Niederreiter 11 games last season to score his first goal, a precursor to a frustrating season. The Swiss winger had goal droughts of 10, seven, nine and eight games, no multigoal games, and did not score in consecutive outings.
The 2020-21 season started much better, with Niederreiter scoring the Hurricanes’ first goal of the season after a nice defensive play by Sebastian Aho.
Aho knocked down a saucer pass by Detroit captain Dylan Larkin just outside the Detroit blue line and re-entered the offensive zone. He held off three defenders and backhanded a pass through the slot to Niederreiter, who deked and lifted a forehand past Red Wings goalie Thomas Greiss (40 saves) to make it 1-0 Carolina at 3:38 of the first.
“I wasn’t very happy and very pleased with last season,” Niederreiter said. “So I knew I expected a lot more from me, and I know I got better.”
Niederreiter also knows that if he is going to play on the top line with Aho and Teuvo Teravainen, he’ll have to produce.
“It’s a nice being back with them,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s a great opportunity for me, so I’m going to work hard to stay there.”
2. Speaking of guys who had a rough time last season, Dzingel had a difficult first year with the Hurricanes, scoring just eight goals with 29 points in 64 games while being a healthy scratch a handful of times.
On Thursday, he scored on the power play, redirecting a Jake Gardiner shot with 2:34 left in the game to give Carolina a two-goal cushion and start his own season off on a positive note.
“Just listen to them talk about their season last year, you know they expected more,” Brind’Amour said of Dzingel and Niederreiter. “And, you know, we did too…. For those guys to just break the ice early, I think is huge — obviously, it’s big for our team. But for them personally, you certainly hope it springs them forward to better things.”
3. The surprise of the opener was Dougie Hamilton dropping the gloves against Detroit’s Sam Gagner. Hamilton engaged Gagner after the Red Wings forward put a heavy hit on Carolina captain Jordan Staal near the benches.
It was the second fight of Hamilton’s NHL career and first since Jan. 21, 2015, against the Avalanche’s Gabriel Landeskog when he was still with the Boston Bruins. He also had a fight in the 2016-17 preseason against Arizona’s Max Domi when he was with the Flames.
It was the kind of fight you expect from two players known more for their talent than their pugilism. But on a team that has passed over grit for skill, Carolina getting a “stick up for your teammate” fight from one of its star players could go a long way in building team chemistry in a season where bonding is limited because of coronavirus protocols.
Number To Know
29 — The shot on goal advantage, 43-14, for Carolina in the win. The Hurricanes also had 73 shot attempts for Detroit’s 34. Despite the lopsided shot totals, the Red Wings hung around in a one-goal game until the final minutes. That said, there’s a lot of work Detroit needs to do before Saturday’s rematch.
They Said It
“He was pretty darn good for being out for almost a year. We missed him and are really, really excited that he’s back because he is world-class.”
— Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour on defenseman Brett Pesce, who played for the first time since injuring his shoulder last Feb. 22 in Toronto and later undergoing shoulder surgery.
Petr Mrazek, Hurricanes goalie— It wasn’t a “stood on his head” night for Mrazek, but the veteran goalie made saves when he needed to earn the 22nd shutout of his career.
“Yeah, not a lot of action but they were in our zone for a while, and our D did a great job,” Mrazek said after stopping all 14 shots he’s faced. “They blocked a lot of shots tonight, and so I can thank them for that.”
Andrei Svechnikov, Hurricanes forward — It’s hard to find anyone who truly had a bad opening night, though Brind’Amour — while praising the effort — did say there “was a lot of stuff that shouldn’t happen.” A couple of those instances can be attributed to Svechnikov, who made a few questionable defensive zone plays that led to Red Wings chances.
The scoresheet, however, will say one goal (the empty-netter) and four hits. Since it was the opener after a long layoff, any real criticisms in a 3-0 win would be nitpicking — so file this one away as “we had to pick someone.”