Hockey season is upon us once again. The expectations surrounding the Carolina Hurricanes are higher than they’ve ever been. With the Ottawa Senators in town for Opening Night, the Hurricanes got about as much as they could handle. When the final horn sounded, the 2023-24 campaign started on the right foot.
After everyone was left speculating about the Opening Night lineup, Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour opted to deploy an 11/7 group, with Frederik Andersen getting the opening start for the third straight season. On the other side, injuries and cap constraints forced the Senators to play a man short, using just 11 forwards, as Joonas Korpisalo made his Senators debut in the net.
Once the pomp and circumstance of the night died down, the action started quickly. The Canes were forced to kill a penalty in the first minute of the season, and though they killed it, they conceded the first goal a few minutes later as Mathieu Joseph deflected a point shot by Artem Zub past Frederik Andersen to get things started. The Canes got plenty of chances in the next few minutes, failing to convert on a power play and a penalty shot, as Jesper Fast was denied 1-on-1 against Joonas Korpisalo. While the offense was coming up empty, Andersen did his part to keep it 1-0 after the first period.
In the second period, the jitters had worn off, and the Hurricanes found their game. They drew another early penalty, and they converted this time. Michael Bunting found himself alone at the side of the net, received a pass from Sebastian Aho, and outwaited Joonas Korpisalo to net his first goal as a Hurricane and the team’s first of the season. The Canes kept their momentum going, and it finally paid off in the final minutes of the period. Teuvo Teravainen started his season on the right foot, burying a one-timer after Martin Necas made a beautiful pass to give the Canes their first lead of the night.
Starting the third period with a one-goal lead, the captain wasted little time extending it. Jordan Staal lifted a backhander into the net 20 seconds into the final frame to make it 3-1, and it felt like the Canes were going to ease into an Opening Night victory. The hockey gods wouldn’t allow it. With two goals in 35 seconds, Ottawa was able to knot it up, getting a short-handed goal from Parker Kelly and a snipe from Tim Stutzle to make it 3-3 less than six minutes into the period.
The joy had been taken out of the building with the game tied. Leave it to the defense to get PNC Arena bouncing again. Jordan Martinook picked the pocket of Tim Stutzle to begin the play, and Brady Skjei blasted one off the pipe to get the Canes back in front. Jaccob Slavin added another goal while short-handed with a snipe over the shoulder of Joonas Korpisalo a few minutes later to regain the two-goal lead. This time, the lead was safe. The defense shut down Ottawa to close things out, earning a 5-3 victory on Opening Night.
There weren’t many things to dislike about this win. The power play will remain under a microscope early in the year, and while they scored a goal, they also allowed a goal and didn’t look great in the third period. Also, for as good as Frederik Andersen was through 40 minutes, the goal he allowed to Tim Stutzle to tie the game is one you’d like to have back.
Otherwise, Opening Night accomplished many great things. Michael Bunting continued to show great chemistry with Sebastian Aho. Seth Jarvis recorded a game-high seven hits and picked up an assist. The penalty kill was perfect, killing all four penalties and scoring a goal. Dmitry Orlov had a rough moment early in the third period but made up for it with a beautiful hip check and skated like a gazelle. Nine of the 11 forwards recorded a point. Like they were last season, the Staal line was excellent from start to finish. They had some of the best chances of the first period, including the penalty shot. Jordan Staal had a multi-point night, and Jordan Martinook and Jesper Fast recorded assists.
In the end, Opening Night was a success because the Hurricanes earned two points. Every point mattered last season, and this season won’t be any different. Everyone contributed to the win, which should set the standard for the next 81 games. With the NC State Fair coming to town, the Hurricanes will hit the road for their next six games. They’ll start with a weekend back-to-back in California against the Kings and Ducks on Saturday and Sunday.