RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes had to wait about 30 extra minutes to truly show up for the 2022-23 season. Once they did, the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets didn’t stand a chance.
Martin Necas had a goal and two assists, Frederik Andersen made 31 saves and the Hurricanes used a suffocating third period to pull away from and beat the Blue Jackets 4-1 in front of a sellout crowd at Wednesday’s NHL season opener at PNC Arena.
“You want to get the win, that’s the first thing,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “And then you want to see, ‘Are we starting to play the way we want to?’ That was encouraging toward the end.”
Necas was the player who, perhaps more than anyone, needed to start his season on the right foot, and he did just that.
“I tried to build myself in the summer to be a different player this year,” Necas said, “and obviously it’s good to have this kind of start, especially in a win for the boys.”
Necas created the go-ahead goal late in the second period, using his speed to push back defenders before curling and setting up Brady Skjei for a slap shot that hit Columbus defenseman Zach Werenski in front and went in the Columbus net for a 2-1 Carolina lead with 90 seconds left in the middle frame.
“He put it right on a tee for me,” Skjei said. “I was just trying to hit the net and luckily it went in.”
Necas then got a goal of his own. He forced a turnover on the forecheck and benefited from a scramble in front of Blue Jackets rookie goalie Daniil Tarasov — who made 39 saves after being named Columbus’ opening night starter when No. 1 goalie Elvis Merzlikins fell ill. Derek Stepan poked the puck over to Necas, who shot past a lurching Tarasov to extend the lead to 3-1 at 6:29 of the final period.
“It was actually my buddy,” Necas said of forcing Czech countryman Jakub Voracek into the turnover. “I think he was just kind of waiting until I’m gonna hold him and get the penalty. Fortunately, I had a good bounce there, the guys made a nice play and I had, basically, an empty net.”
He then assisted on Carolina’s final goal, getting the puck to Andrei Svechnikov for a seemingly harmless shot that trickled through Tarasov at 9:18 of the third for a 4-1 Hurricanes lead.
“We know there’s so much more there,” Brind’Amour said of Necas. “And so for him to just feel good about his game, I think, is gonna be huge.”
In all, Carolina outshot Columbus 20-8 in the third period and 43-32 for the game.
“The first period was a little slow, a little sluggish,” Skjei said. “But we bounced back — I think that’s what this team does — and got to got to our game the second, third period and got a bunch of shots on net.”
After an opening 20 minutes without a goal, Columbus quickly took the lead at the start of the second period.
Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin wheeled the puck around the boards in the Carolina end to Jesper Fast, but Werenski pinched from the point and forced a turnover. He tapped the puck to Patrik Laine, and the Columbus sniper slid to the right circle and wristed a shot past Andersen for a 1-0 lead just 11 seconds into the middle frame.
That was all the damage Laine — who now has 10 goals in 20 career games against Carolina — would do after he suffered an injury in the second period that knocked him out for the balance of the game.
The Hurricanes answered Laine’s goal quickly.
Sebastian Aho won a puck battle in the Columbus end and the puck squirted out to Seth Jarvis, who headed toward the net and lifted a backhand over Tarasov’s blocker, off the post and in to tie the game at 5:12 of the period.
Notes: Columbus seemed to take the lead in the second period, but Cole Sillinger’s goal was taken off the board after the Hurricanes successfully challenged for offsides. … Necas had the sixth three-point game of his career. … Paul Stastny recorded his first point with the Hurricanes, earning an assist on Svechnikov’s goal. … Defenseman Brett Pesce finished plus-4 on the night. … Defenseman Brent Burns had six shots on goal and 13 shot attempts, both team highs, in his Hurricanes debut. … Both teams went 0 for 2 on the power play.