After Friday night’s loss to the Florida Panthers, the Carolina Hurricanes needed to do some soul-searching. Their stars had been largely outplayed, leading to a 5-2 loss in an Eastern Conference Finals rematch. Fortunately, there wasn’t time for the Canes to lick their wounds, traveling to Tampa Bay for their second meeting of the season with the Lightning just 24 hours later.
The lineup got a shakeup for the Hurricanes. Tony DeAngelo was back in the lineup, taking Jalen Chatfield’s spot. The forward lines were thrown in the blender, with the Staal line being broken up. Pyotr Kochetkov led the team out for warm-ups, which was expected with the back-to-back. Before warm-ups, there was breaking news for the Bolts, as Nikita Kucherov was declared out for the game with an illness.
It was clear from the jump that the tone was much different than it was in Sunrise. Michael Bunting took exception to a hit Tanner Jeannot threw on Sebastian Aho, causing them to drop the gloves less than two minutes into the game. While Bunting didn’t get the better of the exchange, it sent a message.
The Hurricanes used that fight to garner momentum, earning an early power play. It took 19 seconds for the Canes to strike. Seth Jarvis won a battle in the corner against Erik Cernak to keep the puck. The puck moved from Jarvis to Martin Necas to Sebastian Aho to Teuvo Teravainen, who labeled a one-timer under the arm of Jonas Johansson to break the ice. The first period saw some excellent back-and-forth for both teams, but Teravainen’s goal was the lone tally.
The lead was extended early in the second period. Jonas Johansson kicked out Jaccob Slavin’s backhand chance, but Andrei Svechnikov was able to push the puck to Sebastian Aho as he sped into the zone. Aho put the rebound into the net, making it 2-0 early. Slavin’s secondary assist made him the franchise’s leader in assists by a defenseman, passing Dave Babych. The Canes ran laps around the Bolts in the second, outshooting them 9-3 and controlling play for 20 minutes. The penalty kill came up with a massive kill to keep it a two-goal game as the Canes moved into the third period in a great spot.
The Lightning pushed to get back into the game in the third. Jesper Fast took a penalty early in the period, but the kill held firm. Brent Burns took another penalty nearly halfway through the period, and after the team killed it, they found more offense. Burns made a great play as he came out of the box to strip Nick Perbix of the puck. Brady Skjei picked it up and found Burns at the side of the net for an easy tap-in to make it 3-0. Stefan Noesen redirected a shot into the net in the final minutes to put the Bolts away for good as Pyotr Kochetkov picked up a 4-0 shutout win.
You won’t see two more polar opposite performances on consecutive nights. This was as clinical a road game as you could’ve asked for from the Hurricanes. While Nikita Kucherov missing the game helped, I’m not sure he would’ve made a difference. Tampa’s stars were invisible. On the other hand, Carolina’s stars were present and accounted for. Sebastian Aho and Brent Burns had two points each. Andrei Svechnikov, Martin Necas, and Teuvo Teravainen all found the scoresheet. Seth Jarvis wasn’t rewarded with a point, but he was a crucial part of the first two goals of the night. Rod Brind’Amour called out his stars, and they delivered.
As great as the 18 skaters were, the story of the game is Pyotr Kochetkov. This likely wasn’t the most demanding night he’s had in the NHL, but this could potentially be a momentum builder for him. 2023 has been a tough year for Kochetkov. He’d won just two of his last 12 decisions dating back to January. His three appearances this season hadn’t gone his way either. After losing 3-0 to the Bolts a few weeks ago, he stepped up and showed why this team thinks highly of him. Moving forward, being confident in both Kochetkov and Antti Raanta will be huge for this team as Frederik Andersen continues to recover.
A split of this back-to-back is perfectly acceptable as the Hurricanes complete a daunting first 15 games. This is an excellent bounceback win for the group as they head back home for a few days off. After a road-heavy start, the Canes will be at PNC Arena for most of the rest of the month. They won’t play again until Wednesday night when they welcome the Philadelphia Flyers to PNC Arena for the first time this season.