Kochetkov Outduels Bobrovsky, Aho Scores Late to Help the Hurricanes Get Some Revenge

The Canes' goalie stopped a career-high 44 shots, and Aho scored with 18.9 seconds left to break a scoreless tie to snap Florida's 11-game road win streak.

Florida Panthers v Carolina Hurricanes
Florida Panthers v Carolina Hurricanes / Grant Halverson/GettyImages
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With how hot both teams were coming into this game, there was little doubt in anyone's mind that the Carolina Hurricanes and the Florida Panthers were going to put on an epic showdown in Raleigh on Thursday night. Florida got the better of the Canes the first time around in Sunrise, but this was a much different team that the Panthers were going to face. The Panthers were also looking to make history, aiming for their 12th straight road victory to tie the NHL record.

The Canes rolled the same group of skaters from the win over Chicago on Monday night, as Jalen Chatfield missed his second straight game. Pyotr Kochetkov was back in the net for the team, getting his first start since last Friday. Fellow Russian Sergei Bobrovsky was in the net opposite him for the Panthers.

Momentum swings in the first period were very pronounced, with both sides controlling play for decent portions. Florida started with the early advantage before the Canes started to shift the game midway through the period. Jordan Martinook rang the post at one point, cleanly beating Sergei Bobrovsky over his glove but not the iron. The Panthers had a few great chances near the end of the period, including a post of their own from Brandon Montour, but nothing was in the back of the net after 20 minutes.

Over a minute of a late-period tripping penalty against Jack Drury carried into the second period, but the penalty kill got the job done to squash Florida's early chances. Tony DeAngelo, who had a solid game, couldn't beat the iron, either, snapping one off the right post early in the period. Sebastian Aho also had a great chance, storming past Aaron Ekblad before being denied by Sergei Bobrovsky. The Panthers netminder was on his game, and it was never more clear than on the save he made on Martin Necas late in the frame. Necas did everything right, freezing Bobrovsky as he moved to his right. Bobrovsky would get the last laugh, lifting his pad off the ice to rob Necas.

With the scoreless tie entering the third period, it was going to take something special to beat either goalie. Not to be outdone by the late-period robbery of Martin Necas, Pyotr Kochetkov tried to one-up him. Florida got in on a 2-on-1, with Evan Rodrigues streaking up the right side. The pass got to Rodrigues, and he had a lot of net to shoot at as Kochetkov tried to recover. By extending his arm, Kochetkov got just enough of the puck to keep it out of the net, and Jack Drury came in behind him to clear it out of the crease.

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Shortly after that save, the Canes found themselves on the wrong side of a four-minute high-sticking call to Jordan Staal, forcing the penalty kill into action without one of their most crucial killers. With one of the best power plays in the league operating for four minutes, the Canes' kill came out and shut them down. The first two minutes went by quickly, but it took some hard work to kill it completely. The crowd erupted as Staal exited the box. Less than two minutes later, Staal would draw the Canes' first power play of the night, though it would come up empty.

The end of this game was chaotic. After Sebastian Aho missed a tap-in with Sergei Bobrovsky out of position, former Hurricane Eetu Luostarinen tipped a pass home with 3:18 left to get Florida on the board. At least, that's what they thought. It didn't take long for the Canes to challenge the play, and it was very clear that Luostarinen was offside prior to scoring. Florida came dangerously close to scoring in the final minute, but it would be Carolina who stood tall. Andrei Svechnikov's initial shot was blocked, but Aho was there to spin and fire the puck over Bobrovsky's glove with 18.9 seconds left to break the tie finally. That's all the Canes would need to earn a 1-0 win, but not before some fireworks after the horn.

While it was a great victory, the Panthers deserve a lot of credit for playing the game they did while short-handed. Both Matthew Tkachuk and Gustav Forsling were unavailable for the final two periods, exiting with injuries. Tkachuk's likely stemmed from a hit he received from Andrei Svechnikov. I'm not exactly sure what happened to Forsling, but it sounds like they'll be day-to-day, according to Paul Maurice.

If you weren't convinced that this team hasn't come a long way, this game should've changed your mind. This was as close to playoff hockey as we've seen this season, which is something I feel like I've said a few times recently. Win, lose, or draw, we were going to see what this Hurricanes team was made of. They showed me a lot. Granted, there were a few times that they should've scored before the eventual winner.

This was about as good of a goalie duel as I've seen in a while. Pyotr Kochetkov and Sergei Bobrovsky went at it for 60 minutes, and the young guy was just a little better. Both made some extraordinary stops in the contest, though I'm giving the edge to Kochetkov's stop in the third period on Evan Rodrigues. I don't think Kochetkov has gotten a lot of love around the league for his play over the last two months. His 1.90 GAA and .932 save percentage since December 12 are both among the best in the league.

While this was an exhilarating victory, the Canes will have to turn around and play a back-to-back this weekend. It'll start on Saturday night when they host the Dallas Stars. They will turn right around and hit the road for three games, beginning less than 24 hours after the Dallas game when they travel to Buffalo to complete their season series with the Sabres.