On the heels of a long homestand, the Carolina Hurricanes took a quick trip to Philadelphia for their third meeting with the Flyers in their first 21 games. With the road team claiming the first two games, the Canes were hoping the trend would continue in this important divisional matchup.
Before the teams took the ice for warm-ups, the Canes were dealt a tough blow as the team announced Andrei Svechnikov would miss the game due to illness. This meant Brendan Lemieux would see his first action in almost a month. He’d join the fourth line while Michael Bunting moved up to the top line. In the net, Pyotr Kochetkov earned his second straight start, matching up with Carter Hart on the other side.
After staying out of the box against Columbus, Jordan Staal took a tripping penalty less than a minute into the game, putting the penalty kill in a tough spot early. Fortunately, the Flyers’ power play hasn’t been clicking, allowing the Canes to kill it easily.
As it often does, the kill allowed the Hurricanes to gain some momentum, leading to the first goal of the night. Sebastian Aho’s pass from the dot found Michael Bunting at the top of the crease, and he was able to get his rebound to slide past a diving Carter Hart for an early 1-0 lead. The Canes spent the rest of the period fighting to keep their lead. Teuvo Teravainen took a puck off the line and then made a huge block to keep the puck out of the net, preserving the lead going into the intermission.
Jordan Staal took another early penalty in the second period, but the kill bailed him out again. However, it felt like the Flyers had momentum throughout the early stretch of the period. Eventually, Tyson Foerster was able to spring Travis Konecny on a breakaway. Konecny made no mistakes with his shot, beating Pyotr Kochetkov under his glove to tie the game.
After Konecny’s goal, the Hurricanes were in complete control. The fourth line would find more magic, courtesy of a friendly bounce. The attempted pass up the ice by Scott Laughton hit Brendan Lemieux in the shin, and after Carter Hart was forced to make a stop, Lemieux was able to get the rebound past him to help the Canes regain their lead before the break.
The Hurricanes continued their dominant play into the third period, coming up short on two strong power plays. Owen Tippett nearly found some daylight against Pyotr Kochetkov, but he rang the crossbar. Dmitry Orlov tried to go coast-to-coast, losing out to the iron after his wicked shot hit the post.
The Flyers nearly found the tying goal a few times, but Pyotr Kochetkov was there to keep them out. The eventual dagger was a soft one. Seth Jarvis’ shot from the left dot was low and looked to be an easy stop for Carter Hart. Instead, the puck momentarily got stuck under Hart’s pad before he accidentally kicked it into the net. No matter how soft it was, the goal gave the Canes a late two-goal lead. Jesperi Kotkaniemi iced the game 42 seconds later into the empty net, helping propel Carolina to a 4-1 win in Philly.
It’s wild how both changes to the lineup made an impact in this win. Michael Bunting gets moved to the top line and records two points. Brendan Lemieux rejoins the lineup with Andrei Svechnikov’s illness and scores the game-winning goal. Bunting has seemed to mesh well with everyone he’s played with this season. The fourth line with him, Jack Drury, and Stefan Noesen has been clicking for the last few games. Even with Lemieux added to that group, they got on the board.
Pyotr Kochetkov was magnificent once again. Since being recalled, Kochetkov has three wins in four starts, with a .929 save percentage to go with it. For a team looking for some consistency in the net, Kochetkov is answering the call. This was another game where he faced long stretches of pressure, with Philadelphia controlling the puck in the offensive zone early. The only blemish on his night was a breakaway goal. Otherwise, he was able to outduel Carter Hart.
There’s been a lot of discussion around the fanbase about the team’s start through 20, now 21, games. While it doesn’t feel like it, the Hurricanes are in the same spot they were in last season. Through 20 games a year ago, the Canes were third in the division at 10-6-4 with 24 points, trailing New Jersey by eight points. This season, the Canes had more wins (12) but the same number of points (24). They entered this game trailing the Rangers by seven points for the division lead.
Last season, Game 20 was a 4-0 loss at home to Arizona. In their next game on Black Friday, the Canes lost 3-2 in overtime to the Bruins. However, that overtime loss kickstarted what became a 17-game point streak that carried through the entirety of December and into the new year. We’ve yet to see the Hurricanes go on a long winning streak this season. This road win could be the catalyst they need to get things moving.
The Canes will return home for a second straight ESPN+ game on Thursday night as they host the New York Islanders in another big divisional matchup. They’ll play one more home game against Buffalo on Saturday night before they face a tough Western Canada trip. The trip will keep them on the road for over a week and a half, with the next home game against Nashville not coming until December 15.