Carolina Comes Out of the Deadline with a Win in Newark to Sweep the Season Series

Kotkaniemi's sharp-angle goal early in the third period helps the Canes complete their season sweep of the Devils in a 4-2 win.
Carolina Hurricanes v New Jersey Devils
Carolina Hurricanes v New Jersey Devils / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

After an exciting trade deadline for the Carolina Hurricanes, they took a quick trip up north to meet the New Jersey Devils for the final time during the regular season. After winning both meetings in Raleigh, the Canes looked for the trifecta. New Jersey is in a tough spot, sitting outside of the playoffs with time winding down in the season.

One of the two newest members of the team suited up for his debut as Evgeny Kuznetsov played his first game in over a month. It was a quick turnaround for Kuznetsov, who was just acquired on Friday. Pyotr Kochetkov was in the net for the Canes after Frederik Andersen started on Thursday in a 4-1 win over Montreal. Nico Daws took the start for the Devils.

The Hurricanes avoided an early disaster after Luke Hughes rang the crossbar almost immediately. Despite this early chance, the Canes suffocated the Devils for most of the period, winning the battle in the neutral zone decidedly. The only other great chance the Devils had was a 3-on-1, which was perfectly defended by Jaccob Slavin.

Carolina would eventually earn the first power play of the contest midway through the period, and they would strike gold. Martin Necas, whose home country was celebrating Hockey Day in Czechia, unleashed a clapper from the point that got through a few defensive bodies before squeezing through Nico Daws. The rest of the period went without a hitch as the Canes carried their 1-0 lead into the intermission.

After successful penalty kills for both sides, Jack Hughes joined his brother in the goalpost club, ringing the right post from the slot. The Canes thought they'd added to their lead on the power play when Brady Skjei snapped a shot past Nico Daws during a delayed penalty. The referee immediately declared it was goalie interference, which the Hurricanes challenged, seeking to prove it was a legal goal. Stefan Noesen's skate came into contact with Daws' skate outside of the crease, but the situation room in Toronto upheld the call.

With the Devils avoiding a disastrous fate, they scored late in the second period. Andrei Svechnikov, who had an overall rough afternoon, turned the puck over to Jack Hughes on a clearing attempt. Hughes found Nico Hischier, and he got a good bounce off the iron. His shot beat Pyotr Kochetkov to the glove side off the right post to even things up. Hughes nearly gave them the lead a few minutes later, missing a wide-open net, allowing the Canes to escape the period tied at one.

The beginning of the third period helped us diagnose why Jesperi Kotkaniemi hasn't been scoring. He clearly isn't shooting from the right angles because the go-ahead goal was incredible. Releasing the puck from the goal line along the boards, Kotkaniemi's shot hit the far post, hit Nico Daws in the back, and went into the net to put the Canes back ahead. If he were given 100 chances, I'm not sure he could replicate what he did on that goal.

The penalty kill came up big again, killing almost 90 seconds of a 4-on-3 before the defense settled in and prevented the Devils from getting much going. When shots did get through, Pyotr Kochetkov was there to stop them. With time winding down and Nico Daws on the bench, Andrei Svechnikov buried his second empty-net goal in as many games to extend the lead. Timo Meier pushed one into the net with Daws back on the bench with less than 12 seconds left, but Teuvo Teravainen completed his three-point afternoon with another empty-netter to seal the 4-2 victory.

I thought Evgeny Kuznetsov looked good in his first game. Obviously, there's going to be a little rust after missing a month, but he came out of the gate moving well. Centering Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Jesper Fast, his line was solid. He got some time on the power play, too. He had a golden opportunity to score on the backdoor, but he fanned on the chance. Kuznetsov's debut ended with him recording two shots in 13 minutes, and he was on the ice for the goal early in the third period. One game isn't much to go on, though this was a good first impression.

While Teuvo Teravainen did pick up three points, I didn't think this was a great game for the top line. Sebastian Aho didn't shine, compared to Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes, though he did ring the crossbar in the third period. Andrei Svechnikov took two avoidable penalties and turned the puck over on Hischier's goal. Scoring two goals and combining for four points helps to overlook some of their deficiencies for the afternoon.

It's hard to sweep a season series against a division opponent, especially one with as much skill as the Devils. The overwhelming reason for this success was the penalty kill. After a 4-for-4 performance on Saturday, the penalty kill went 11-for-11 during their three meetings this season. The Devils' power play has been pretty bad since early January, but they had plenty of chances to strike against the Canes.

It'll be a quick turnaround for the Hurricanes as they head back to Raleigh for a Sunday evening game against the Calgary Flames. Calgary is in a very similar boat as the Devils, sitting outside of the Wild Card picture in the Western Conference. This will allow us to see how the Canes will navigate their three-goalie system, with Frederik Andersen or Spencer Martin likely to be in the net.