If anyone, anywhere thought this was going to be a low-scoring, low-energy season opener for the Hurricanes and the Panthers, they have already been proven wrong. With 20 minutes in the books, the score is tied 2-2.
The ‘Canes came out firing, logging three great scoring attempts early in the first. Bayda whiffed on a perfect scoring chance early, right in front of the net with the Florida goaltender out of position. A few minutes later, the puck was in the Canes’ own net after Frank Kaberle missed his man and allowed David Booth to walk in unimpeded. Jay Bouwmeester and Bryan Allen were given assists.
At 4:57, a face very familiar to the ‘Canes blasted his way onto the scoresheet as Cory Stillman, the ’06 vet who was traded away to the Ottawa Senators and later signed with the Panthers as a free agent (his third team in the Southeast division, by the way – only Atlanta and Washington to go) scored on a 5-on-3 with both Pitkanen and Staal in the penalty box for hooking.
The good news is, when goals are scored that early in the game, they are easy to forget. The Canes retaliated at 11:30 on a power play of their own when Tuomo Ruutu, who missed the entire preseason due to a nagging groin injury, tipped a Dennis Seidenberg shot. Kaberle made up for his previous boo-boo with the additional assist.
Ray Whitney tied it up at with two and a half minutes left in the first, from Eaves and Gleason at even strength, dancing in front of the net and picking his spot. It was Whitney’s 200th point with the Hurricanes.
On an interesting note, Brandon Sutter – still getting his feet wet in his first NHL game – and Eric Staal, who is better known for putting pucks in the net than keeping them out, were killing penalties early in the game. Perhaps the 'Canes are shaking it up early; the penalty kill hovered just above dead last for most of the 2007-2008 season.
For those watching at home, there are a few unfamiliar numbers on the ice tonight.
Dan LaCouture selected No. 20.
Anton Babchuk switched to No. 33, even though his previous No. 48 remained unclaimed. (Babchuk is a healthy scratch for the Florida game.)
Tim Gleason made his third number exchange in his modest three years with the Canes. Gleason gave up his No. 8 when Matt Cullen returned from the Rangers last season, then abandoned No. 42 when the artist formerly known as Bret Hedican’s No. 6 became available. To memorabilia-collecting fans around the league: a Gleason jersey may not be a sound financial investment.
Brandon Sutter picked No. 16, which most recently belonged to Andrew Ladd, and Zach Boychuk (also scratched after undergoing wrist surgery) picked an iconic number for the Triangle, No. 23. Does Boychuk know that he will never be the most famous No. 23 in the Triangle? Is he making a statement about the lofty expectations that have been put upon him as a first-round pick? We’ll see.