Even while getting behind 1-0 on a goal that found Jonathan Huberdeau sitting wide open on the crease, the Hurricanes worked to release the excitement and nervousness that the first game presented.
“We had some young boys in the lineup and we started off looking a little hesitant, a little nervous,” head coach Kirk Muller said afterwards.
Lack of discipline
However, trailing by only a goal wasn’t the biggest challenge the Hurricanes faced early on - going to the penalty box was.
On-ice officials were diligent in enforcing the rules, assessing a total of 15 penalties throughout the game.
By the end of the period, the Hurricanes trailed 4-0 and Muller decided to pull Cam Ward from the net as two of the four goals came on clear shots that found the top corners of the net, flying past the team’s starter.
“We put ourselves behind the eight-ball early on,” said Muller.
“First game - was either let him battle through it – he was sick last week – I just didn’t know if the energy was there. I thought it would be a mental way of giving him the rest, and get (Dan) Ellis in there and give ourselves a chance to get back into it.”
No power output
Unfortunately, the Hurricanes weren’t as fortunate in finding the back of the net, even when afforded with six power play opportunities of their own.
Carolina outshot Florida 42-25 for the game, but couldn’t connect on its opportunities which included ringing a few of the post.
“We had a few good looks and we didn’t hit the back of the net and the momentum goes their way and that’s the way it went,” captain Eric Staal said.
“Once we started to establish our forecheck and not turn over the puck at the blue line, I thought we really took it to them really. We ended up with a lot of shots, a lot of opportunity. On the power play, I think we can get sharper – it’s tough to be real crisp right off the bat, but some areas you get sharper at and limit the mistakes at the blue liness, we’ll be right there, we’ll be fine.”
Building on the positives
Muller, Staal and the rest of the team know what they did and didn’t do right during their first game of this shortened NHL season.
“It’s more timing than nerves,” Muller stated.
“Once we got settled in, I thought we were just playing. The opportunities were there – Theodore played pretty good. If you get that many scoring chances with the guys and the skill (we have), eventually you score more than one goal a game.”
With little turnaround time, the team will practice on Monday in preparation for its home-opener on Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Muller indicated that the ‘sloppy things’ that he saw against Florida were ‘correctable’.
“We gotta’ look at the positives to build on,” he said.
“I guess that’s what we needed this game for – to evaluate what we we’re good at and what we need to get better at.”