Hurricanes seek to continue strong start versus Panthers
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The Carolina Hurricanes are off to a 3-0 start for just the second time in franchise history and visit the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night looking for win No. 4.
Carolina has won two of its games in overtime and one in a shootout, overcoming third-period deficits in each contest. The Hurricanes are just the third team in NHL history to start 3-0-0 with each game requiring overtime.
"We've got a resilient group," said standout defenseman Jaccob Slavin, who scored an overtime goal on Sunday night in a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. "It's a confidence-builder for this group, and we hope to continue on this path."
Carolina outshot Tampa Bay 16-0 in Sunday's second period. It was the first time in NHL history that a reigning Presidents Trophy-winner was held without a shot on goal for an entire period.
Third-line center Erik Haula, acquired by Carolina from the Vegas Golden Knights in a 2019 draft-day trade, has scored in each game. He is the first Carolina newcomer ever to accomplish that feat.
He scored a career-high 29 goals in 2017-2018, helping Vegas reach the Stanley Cup Finals but played just 15 games last season due to a knee injury.
Now, the 28-year-old Haula has joined a hungry Carolina team that last season made a surprising run to the Eastern Conference finals.
"You find a way to win," Haula said after Carolina beat Tampa Bay. "It's a great start, but there's a lot of hockey left."
Last season, Carolina beat the Panthers all three times, including just one that went to overtime. Two of those three games were road wins for Carolina.
The Panthers, however, have fourth-line center Noel Acciari, an agitator who was on the Boston Bruins team that swept Carolina in last season's Eastern Conference finals.
So far this season, Acciari has one goal in two games as the Panthers split a home-and-home matchup with Tampa Bay.
Florida's big hero so far has been winger Mike Hoffman, who has four goals in two games, including a hat trick in Saturday's 4-3 win. Hoffman, an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, scored a career-high 36 goals in 2018-2019.
"Our power play was nice to get going," said Hoffman, who scored twice with the man advantage on Saturday night. "You lick your chops when you get those opportunities."
With Hoffman, star center Aleksander Barkov, goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and the rest of the Florida core, the Panthers are hoping to do this season what Carolina accomplished in 2018-2019, when it ended a nine-year playoff drought.
The Hurricanes caught fire in January and got branded by broadcaster Don Cherry as a "Bunch of Jerks," a derisive label that they used to their own advantage, bonding the Hurricanes.
Virtually the entire Hurricanes team from last season has returned, with the addition of Haula and third-line winger Ryan Dzingel, who was acquired as a free agent in July.
The Panthers, who have missed the playoffs in three straight seasons, made a much bigger splash this past summer, signing Bobrovsky as well as Acciari, former Washington Capitals winger Brett Connolly and ex-Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman.
But perhaps the biggest Panthers addition was coach Joel Quenneville, who gives Florida instant credibility due to the three Stanley Cup rings he won with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Quenneville is already hard at work attempting to redefine Panthers' culture.
"We want to make sure we play well at home," Quenneville said. "It should be a tough two points for teams coming in here."