The Hurricanes raised the banner for their Cup win Wednesday night before opening their title defence against the Buffalo Sabres, allowing themselves one last look back at a thrilling run to the first major professional sports title in North Carolina history. They just couldn't follow that with a big win in front of a charged, standing-room only crowd.
"Obviously this is a game you'd like to win," defenceman Mike Commodore said after the 3-2 shootout loss. "You'd like to win your home opener and definitely when you're raising the banner. It just didn't work out.
"It was an amazing year, but now it's over. The banner's raised and it's time to do it again."
They earned the title by holding off the Edmonton Oilers, closing out the final series with a 3-1 win in Game 7 on June 19. Now, less than four months later, they were back on the ice knowing that they have to move on from last year's wild run.
The franchise held a 20-minute pregame ceremony to honour last year's champs, introducing members of the team's front office on a red carpet laid out on the ice. The players followed, skating to the blue line and watching the scoreboard monitor above to see highlights from their post-season run.
The Hurricanes first unfurled banners commemorating the Southeast Division and Eastern Conference titles, then unveiled the 114-year-old Stanley Cup on a table set up on the ice. Finally, captain Rod Brind'Amour, alternate captains Glen Wesley and Kevyn Adams, and injured forward Cory Stillman joined team owner Peter Karmanos Jr. to fasten the Cup banner to hooks for its slow ascent amid a steady stream of popping photo flashes from the 18,840 fans in the stands.
"I just get chills thinking about it," Adams said. "Obviously, when you see your Stanley Cup ring or you look at a banner, you know all the things you went through. The memories are what you think about.
"It's time to turn the page in terms of what happened," he said. "At the same point you need to enjoy tonight, enjoy the atmosphere, enjoy everything that goes with it, but realizing we're setting out on a new journey."
The Hurricanes received their championship rings during a ceremony Monday.
That new pursuit began against the team the Hurricanes beat to reach the Stanley Cup finals.
"We've got the experience, we've got guys who will make sure everyone's focused and ready for this season," said center Eric Staal, who scored Carolina's first goal of the new season. "Obviously, we need to enjoy the festivities before the game, but once that puck drops, it's a new year and we need to get it done."