When Sebastian Aho’s shot crossed the Ottawa goal line a millisecond after the first period clock expired, it was pretty clear Tuesday was not going to be the Carolina Hurricanes’ night.
The Senators built a four-goal lead and survived a late Hurricanes push, winning 4-3 behind two Brady Tkachuk goals and 42 saves from former Hurricanes goalie Anton Forsberg in Ottawa.
Carolina made it interesting in the third period, scoring three times to cut the lead to one. But after Vincent Trocheck scored with goalie Antti Raanta on the bench, the Hurricanes were unable to get the equalizer.
“If we want to be the best team in the world, you’ve got to, right from the puck drop, you got to have it and you got to play the whole 60,” Hurricanes defenseman Brendan Smith said. “So you can spot them four and expect to win the game.”
The dominant final 20 minutes didn’t negate a flat start that eventually sunk the Hurricanes.
It started with Tkachuk, the Senators’ captain, centering a pass from the corner that hit Aho and went in for a 1-0 Ottawa lead just 71 seconds into the game.
“We came out, actually the first two shifts were great, and then they throw it at the net and it bounces in and we’re behind the eight ball,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said.
It only went downhill from there. Alex Formenton scored his fourth goal against Carolina this season and 10th overall at 8:27 of the first, sneaking away from Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce in front and finishing a Connor Brown pass from below the goal line.
Carolina seemingly found life just before the end of the first period when Aho beat Forsberg to halve the lead at the horn. But replay showed the puck was just feet from the goal line when the clock hit zero.
Ottawa took advantage of the negated momentum-changing play, with Tkachuk scoring his second just 40 seconds into the middle frame and Chris Tierney adding one of his own at 2:54.
It was nearly 20 minutes of game time later before the Hurricanes finally dented Forsberg, who spent most of the 2019-20 season with Carolina’s then-AHL affiliate in Charlotte but played three games with the Hurricanes.
Andrei Svechnikov got his 17th goal of the season at 2:07. Then Smith — playing on his 33rd birthday — one-timed a pass initially intended for teammate Jesper Fast past Forsberg to halve the lead.
“it’s nice to get that one, but I don’t really care about that,” Smith said. “I really care about the two points.”
With Raanta (27 saves) on the bench, Trocheck cleanly beat Forsberg with a shot with 1:12 left. Raanta stayed on the bench, but Carolina was unable to get one more to tie the game.
“I love the fact of down four-nothing going into third, it’d be easy just roll over,” Brind’Amour said. “That’s not how these guys operate. … We just gave up too much, obviously, at the start. Four goals. But I love the fact that we kept digging in.”
Notes: Pesce and Brady Skjei both finished minus-3 for the first time this season. It’s just the seventh time in Skjei’s career he’s been minus-3 and the first time since November 2018. Pesce has now finished a game minus-3 just eight times in his career, and hadn’t since March 2019. … Jordan Staal, mired in a 35-game goal drought, had four shots on goal and six hits. The last time he matched those numbers in the same game was the 2018-19 season opener, a 2-1 loss to the Islanders in which he had the lone Carolina goal and finished with seven shots and eight hits. … Svechnikov finished with a game-high 13 shots attempts, including a team-high six shots on goal.