The same couldn’t be said for the Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes. Zach Parise scored twice and Brian Gionta had three assists to lead the Devils past the Hurricanes 4-0 on Friday night, sending the champs to a second straight home loss to open the season.
The Devils got plenty of contributions in a surprisingly easy win in the arena where their playoff run ended last year. Jamie Langenbrunner and Patrik Elias each scored goals, while Martin Brodeur made 29 saves for his 81st career shutout and 447th victory – moving him into a tie for third place all-time with Terry Sawchuk.
It came against the franchise that had won the last two playoff meetings between the teams, including last year’s second-round series.
“Since I’ve been here, it’s happened twice where they knocked us out,” Gionta said. “We’re not happy unless we win the Cup, so to get knocked out by them, it’s nice to come back in here and get a little revenge and start the season off nice.”
On the other side, it was a frustrating performance for Carolina in a game billed as “Opening Night 2,” designed to be a smaller-scale Cup celebration for fans who couldn’t get a ticket to Wednesday’s opener against Buffalo. It included a brief pre-game video montage of last year’s playoff run on the scoreboard, as well as a spotlighted appearance by the 114-year-old Stanley Cup.
Last season, Carolina won its first seven home games en route to a franchise-record 31 wins here. The Hurricanes then beat the Devils in a five-game series, ending it with a 4-1 win at Carolina on May 14.
But the Devils looked sharp in their return Friday, getting Parise’s first goal 26 seconds in and never looking back.
“The fact that they’re Stanley Cup champions, you’ve got to get up for them,” Brodeur said. “That’s something they’re going to have to deal with for the rest of their season. That’s just the way it is. We’ve been through it in New Jersey. They’re tough seasons.”
It wasn’t long before Carolina coach Peter Laviolette was reduced to shuffling his line combinations in hopes of finding any kind of offensive spark. And by the time this clunker was over, there were plenty of boos coming from the crowd of 18,639.
“As bad as it was out there tonight, you can’t overthink the situation,” forward Kevyn Adams said. “We didn’t play hard enough to win. We didn’t win loose pucks. We didn’t finish our checks. We didn’t skate. We were standing around. They won all the battles. And when that happens, you’re going to lose.”
Parise scored first when he tipped in a shot from Colin White at the blue line, the first of three first-period redirections that slipped past Cam Ward, who made 26 saves. Langenbrunner followed with a score at 11:30 of the first period, while Elias redirected a shot from Gomez at 17:32 to cap a dominating period.
Parise scored again in the second, getting a step on Ray Whitney as he cut to the crease to take a cross-ice pass from Gomez. Parise knocked the airborne puck just inside the left post at 6:01, giving New Jersey a 4-0 lead that stood up after video review.
Now the Hurricanes turn their attention toward a seven-game road trip, which begins Saturday against Washington, and away from the Cup hoopla that has followed them all week.
“I think it’s a good time to get out on the road,” Laviolette said. “There’s always less pressure to put on a show when you get on the road and you can get back to more fundamentals.”
Notes: Laviolette coached in his 300th NHL game. … The teams have met in each of Carolina’s last three appearances in the playoffs. The Devils won a first-round series in 2001, while the Hurricanes won in the first round in ’02 and last season en route to the Cup finals in both years. … New Jersey outshot Carolina 20-8 in the opening 28 minutes before finishing with the 30-29 shot advantage. … The Devils blocked 19 shots, five coming from defenceman Jim Fahey, who also had four shots on goal. … Carolina is 1-for-14 on the power play.