RALEIGH — Rod Brind’Amour entered this season with concerns over whether he could recreate the locker room chemistry that played a big part in the 2018-19 Carolina Hurricanes’ success.
While the 2019-20 season is not even a week old, the team’s three come-from-behind wins in its first three games — the latest being Sunday’s 4-3 overtime win over the juggernaut Tampa Bay Lightning — goes a long way toward getting those good feelings flowing.
“When you have to rely on everyone to have a good game, to kind of dig in and come back, it’s not ideal.” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “It’s not how you want to draw it up. But the fact that … everyone’s contributing, they’re giving you what they can. So that’s good. It’s a good start for us.”
The Hurricanes trailed by two goals late in the first period, then allowed just two more shots on goal while rallying past the Lightning in front of 14,125 Sunday at PNC Arena.
The Lightning managed just 13 shots on net while Carolina pelted Curtis McElhinney — making his first start for the Lightning since leaving Raleigh to sign with Tampa Bay as a free agent this summer — with 44 shots.
The barrage was enough to erase Tampa Bay’s 3-1 first period lead and win on a Jaccob Slavin shot in overtime.
“We have a lot of believe in the locker room,” said Erik Haula, who scored on the power play to cut Tampa’s lead to one just past the game’s midway point. “We know we’re good. We just gotta put it together. When we play well, we’re a good team.”
Dougie Hamilton added another power play goal with under eight minutes left in regulation to tie the game, the Hurricanes were in full flight.
Still, for the third time in three games this season, it took more than regulation for Carolina to earn two points.
After a power play that carried over from the end of the third period faltered, the Hurricanes continued to put on the pressure. Andrei Svechnikov won a puck battle near the boards in the Carolina end, then Staal one-upped him by bulling through reigning Hart Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov to create a 2-on-1 chance.
Staal cruised up the left wing and fed Slavin for a one-timer that beat McElhinney (40 saves), giving the Hurricanes three wins over four days to open the season.
“He’s a strong man,” Slavin said of Staal pushing his way past Kucherov to create the chance. “I’ve got to play against him all the time during practice. He manhandled that and, obviously, made a great pass.”
Slavin’s goal was the third of the night for Carolina’s defense, which also contributed the night before when newcomer Jake Gardiner beat Washington with an overtime goal of his own.
“It’s a cornerstone for our group, for sure,” Brind’Amour said of the team’s defense. “It’s defense first. Defend, but when they get a chance, they’ve got the green light. Obviously, tonight was huge, the goals they came up with.”
That included the first, which came in the opening minutes.
Shortly after Carolina’s Brock McGinn hit the post just 68 seconds in, Brett Pesce took a point shot through traffic that hit a Tampa Bay player and got past McElhinney to make it 1-0 at 1:14 of the first.
Tampa Bay, the league’s highest-scoring team a season ago, got the goal back just over a minute later when Tyler Johnson’s slap shot from the high slot found its way through a maze of players to beat Petr Mrazek (10 saves) at 2:22 of the first for his 13th goal in 21 career games against Carolina to tie the game.
Then, the Lightning’s lethal power play — also tops in the NHL last year — needed just five seconds to score on their first attempt, with new Tampa Bay defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk’s point shot fluttering through a sea of traffic for a 2-1 lead for the visiting team at the 9:53 mark of the first.
The high-powered Lightning weren’t done.
Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos bolted into the Carolina zone on a line change, picked up a loose puck at full speed and fired a shot that beat Mrazek stick side to give the visitors a 3-1 lead at 17:44 of the opening period.
Stunningly, the Lightning wouldn’t register another shot on Mrazek for 26 minutes and managed just two shots the rest of the way, both in succession in the third minute of the third period.
Meanwhile, Carolina was building a game.
With Lightning standout defenseman Victor Hedman in the box for the hooking, the Hurricanes’ second power play unit set up shop in the Tampa end.
After more than a minute of zone time, Teuvo Teravainen fed Hamilton for a one-timer that Haula deflected down into his feet in front of the net. Haula whacked at the loose puck and scored his third goal in as many games this season to cut the Lightning’s lead to one at 13:49 of the second.
The same group struck again in the third, and this time Hamilton’s point blast didn’t need any help getting in. With Tampa defenseman Braydon Coburn in the box for tying up Warren Foegele on a scramble in front of McElhinney, Hamilton teed up a shot that found the net and tied the game with 7:12 left in regulation.
“Hopefully we can start better and we don’t have to try to come back in games,” said Hamilton, who is tied with Svechnikov for the team lead with four points. “But yeah, our team doesn’t quit. We just keep going.”
While the power play didn’t convert in overtime, the momentum carried through to the end — right until Slavin roofed his shot to trigger another Storm Surge.
“Two points, find a way to win,” Haula said. “It doesn’t matter how you get it. It’s a great start, but there’s a lot of hockey left.”
Notes: Four Hurricanes defensemen have scored this season, while only three forwards have scored through three games. … Kucherov was held without a shot and had only two shot attempts. … Eleven Hurricanes logged at least a minute shorthanded, including five of the team’s six defensemen. … Haula won 15 of 19 faceoffs. … Shot attempts for the game favored Carolina 86-29.