RALEIGH, N.C. (AP)—Saku Koivu helped the NHL’s top power-play unit of last season pick up where it left off.
Koivu’s second power-play goal of the game came 1:05 into overtime, and the Montreal Canadiens scored three time with the man advantage during their season-opening 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night.
“Today it worked,” Koivu said of the power-play unit. “We don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves … (but) the power play is a big part. Just don’t expect us to score three power-play goals every game. It is a good start. If you can chip in once in a while with the power plays, it’s going to make your job a little bit easier.”
“You go down 4-on-3 for 2 minutes in overtime, it certainly reduces the chance of coming back,” Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said.
Koivu gave the Canadiens a short-lived 2-1 lead midway through the third period. Markov fed the puck from the blue line to a wide-open Koivu in the slot, and he wristed the puck high past Ward on the glove side.
“Getting the first goal early in the season, it takes it away from your mind,” Koivu said. “Obviously, it’s easier to go from there.”
“It seemed like in the third period we fell back on our heels a little bit until they scored that goal,” Ward said. “After they scored that, we started to get our legs again. They came out with a purpose in the third period, and it looked like they were a little more desperate at the beginning of the period.”
Huet finished with 29 saves for Montreal. Ward, who lost 20 pounds this offseason and during a sharp preseason allowed two goals in 2 1/2 games, finished with 37 saves for the Hurricanes.
Both teams were eager to get the season started after coming off disappointing years in which they failed to make the playoffs. Montreal finished two points shy of a postseason berth while the Hurricanes were four points short.
It was a bit of revenge for the Canadiens, whose most recent playoff appearance ended at Carolina’s hands during the first round of its march to the Stanley Cup in 2006.
A sign for optimism: The Canadiens won their first game for the 48th time since joining the NHL in 1917, and have gone on to reach the playoffs after 43 of their previous 47 season-opening victories.
“Obviously, you build confidence with every win and when you play a tough team like them, it is a good thing,” Koivu said.
In Carolina’s first chance to make up for its post-Cup flop of a year ago, it wasted little time putting its maligned power play to work.
A unit that ranked 25th in the league last season converted on its first man-advantage opportunity just 3 1/2 minutes into the season. Eric Staal uncorked a one-timer from behind the right circle and Cole, positioned on the doorstep, redirected the blast past Huet for his 13th career goal against the Canadiens, his best total against any team.
Montreal tied it up later in the period with Streit one-timing a pass from Markov through traffic and past Ward.
Veteran D Roman Hamrlik’s first game with Montreal was the 1,000th of his career. He signed as a free agent after spending two seasons in Calgary and is just the fourth Czech-born player to reach that milestone. … Carolina entered having won 11 of its last 14 meetings with the Canadiens. … LW Cory Stillman (torso) was scratched for Carolina, missing the opener with an injury for the second straight year. … Montreal has won four of its last seven openers.