- Associated Press - Saturday, October 7, 2017

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - The Carolina Hurricanes were a fraction of a second from opening their season with a victory in regulation. As tough as shootouts have been for this team over the years, winning one of those was an even more satisfying way to start.

Jaccob Slavin scored in the tiebreaker and the Hurricanes beat Minnesota 5-4 on Saturday night after the Wild forced overtime with a goal with 0.3 seconds left in regulation.

“Just got to focus on what’s next - obviously, there’s nothing we can do about it after it goes in,” Slavin said. “So we’ve just got to focus on overtime there.”

Victor Rask scored late in regulation and Sebastian Aho had two assists in the third period while Noah Hanifin, Joakim Nordstrom and Derek Ryan also scored to help Carolina win its opener.

Mikko Koivu sent it to OT with his goal in the final second of the third. Jason Zucker, former Carolina captain Eric Staal and Chris Stewart also scored for the Wild.

Scott Darling made 23 saves in his debut as a full-time starter in the NHL and his first game with the Hurricanes, who traded for him during the offseason and then signed him to a four-year contract.

Slavin beat a sprawled-out Alex Stalock high with a backhand in the third round of the shootout, and Darling got a piece of Staal’s shot to end it.

Carolina was 3-6 in shootouts last season and 2-5 the year before that.

“It just kind of happens out there,” Slavin said. “I couldn’t tell you exactly what goes through my mind.”

It appeared as if Aho and Rask had made Darling a winner in dramatic fashion, with Rask taking a slick feed from the second-year forward and beating Stalock with a wrist shot with 1:34 left in regulation.

But Koivu whacked a loose puck past Darling amid a pileup in front of the net just before the horn sounded, and an official review determined that Matt Dumba did not interfere with the Carolina goalie during the scrum.

“I was looking right at the ref when it crossed the line, and he didn’t see it cross the line,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “I think he was just kind of watching everything. … It’s too bad we had to come to that, but we got one point, and obviously one point’s better than none.”

Stalock stopped 38 shots for the Wild, who led 3-1 late in the second period after killing an 88-second, 5-on-3 disadvantage. Staal made it a two-goal game by shaking free near the blue line, skating in on Darling and beating him with a wrist shot with 6:17 left.

“We were way too loose,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We’re not going to win a lot of games if we play like that and allow 40 shots a game. … It’s not the way we practice and it’s too loosey-goosey.”

Then came Carolina’s rally: Ryan pulled the Hurricanes within a goal by redirecting a shot by Justin Williams with 3:40 left in the second, and Hanifin tied it at 3 after taking a pretty feed from Aho and slipping the puck past Stalock with 14:45 left in the third.

This is a season of promise for both teams, with Carolina aggressively adding players during the offseason in its bid to end the league’s longest active playoff drought (eight years) and Minnesota confident that it has kept its window for Stanley Cup contention open after spending almost exactly to the $75 million salary cap.

Since the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season, the Hurricanes have not made the playoffs in any season in which they lost their first game at PNC Arena.

“You go 0-1, the season’s not over - somebody’s losing on opening night in everybody’s first game,” Carolina coach Bill Peters said. “The trick’s going to be to realize our potential and max each other out and push each other in practice to get better. Our upside with this group is very high.”

NOTES: RW Elias Lindholm also had two assists for the Hurricanes. … This was Jordan Staal’s debut as Carolina’s captain. Eric Staal held that position from January 2010 until he was traded to the Rangers in February 2016. … Four members of Carolina’s 2006 Stanley Cup-winning team were in uniform. In addition to Hurricanes G Cam Ward and Minnesota’s Staal, Williams skated in his first game since returning to Carolina and C Matt Cullen is in his first season back with the Wild. … Minnesota C Mikael Granlund (groin) did not play.

UP NEXT

Wild: Minnesota visits Chicago on Wednesday night to wrap up a three-game road swing to start the season.

Hurricanes: Carolina plays host to Columbus on Tuesday night before starting a four-game Western road trip.

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More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

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