Kuznetsov and Guentzel Record Their First Points as Hurricanes in a Dominant 4-0 Win

The Kuznetsov line took over in the second period as the Canes controlled the Panthers all night, winning the season series behind Andersen's 21-save shutout.
Florida Panthers v Carolina Hurricanes
Florida Panthers v Carolina Hurricanes / Jaylynn Nash/GettyImages
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Despite an excellent effort in a playoff-like game, the Carolina Hurricanes failed to find an answer against Igor Shesterkin on Tuesday night in a 1-0 loss. It didn't get much easier on Thursday as the Canes welcomed the Florida Panthers back to town. Three weeks ago, the two teams played an instant classic, being decided with 18.9 seconds left on a goal by Sebastian Aho.

Frederik Andersen and Sergei Bobrovsky went toe-to-toe for the first time since they battled in the Eastern Conference Finals in May. Both goalies were fantastic in that series, though Bobrovsky clearly had the edge, given the result. Bobrovsky was in the net for the meeting when the Panthers were in town in February. The rest of the lineup remained the same for the Canes, while Florida came into the game without Sam Bennett, Evan Rodrigues, and Aaron Ekblad.

It was clear early that cooler heads wouldn't be prevailing. Almost every whistle ended with a scrum, and Florida was the first team to benefit from it, earning an early power play. Frederik Andersen had to be ready, stopping Carter Verhaeghe alone in the slot and Aleksander Barkov at the side of the net during the two-minute kill. The Panthers' only glimpse of control was in the early minutes, as the momentum swung in the Canes' favor the longer the period went.

The lone goal in Tuesday's loss was a last-minute goal in the first period from Adam Fox. The Hurricanes learned from that, getting one before the first intermission. Jaccob Slavin made an incredible stretch pass to the captain to get into the offensive zone. Jordan Staal dropped the puck back to Seth Jarvis, who snapped one over the shoulder of Sergei Bobrovsky to get the Canes on the board before the break.

The second period was all about the Kuznetsov line. From their first shift in the period, they took the game over and found a way to add to the lead. After Dmitry Orlov had his chance stopped, Martin Necas clapped the rebound through the legs of a defender and under the blocker of Sergei Bobrovsky as he was falling to make it 2-0. Initially, the secondary assist was given to Evgeny Kuznetsov, but it was later changed to Jake Guentzel, giving him his first point as a Hurricane.

While he didn't get the assist, Evgeny Kuznetsov would get his first point less than six minutes later. Jalen Chatfield found him in the left dot, and as he fought every urge to pass the puck, Kuznetsov snapped one into the net, finishing it off with his patented eagle celebration. Jake Guentzel nearly got his first goal, too. Instead, he hit the goalpost.

After 40 minutes, the Hurricanes were running circles around the Panthers, leading 3-0. However, that didn't mean this game was over at all. It wasn't long ago that the Canes blew a 3-0 lead to the Jets in the third period, and Florida just came back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Stars 4-3 on Tuesday. Things were looking good for the Canes, but the Panthers could turn things on a dime.

On this night, there would be no comeback. The Hurricanes killed a penalty that carried over from the second period and a tripping penalty by Sebastian Aho early in the period to set the tone. Time flew in the third, and with five minutes left in regulation, the Panthers opted to pull Sergei Bobrovsky despite the three-goal deficit. Empty-net specialist Andrei Svechnikov called "bank," shooting the puck off the glass at the perfect angle to bury the empty-netter to secure the 4-0 win.

I don't believe that it's possible to play a "perfect game," but the Hurricanes put together something very close to perfection to earn the series win against the Panthers. Frederik Andersen, by the very definition, was perfect. He didn't face much from Florida in the final 40 minutes, but he was great early. His first stop of the game was an adventure, and he made two big stops on Florida's first power to set the tone. After stopping ten shots in the first period, he only saw 11 for the rest of the night, thanks to the incredible defense in front of him.

Speaking of the defense, this was another game when they got it done in all three zones. Like Sunday's win over Calgary, the defensemen were all over the scoresheet. While they didn't score a goal, they recorded an assist on all four tallies in this one. Dmitry Orlov, Jalen Chatfield, and Jaccob Slavin all earned primary assists, while Slavin added a secondary assist on the opening goal, giving him two for the night. Orlov was especially strong, flying up and down the ice the entire game and continuing his strong presence on the penalty kill.

The stars of the night were all three members of the team's newest playmaking line. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Martin Necas, and Jake Guentzel all found the scoresheet and probably deserved more than what they got. They combined for ten of the team's 35 shots and half of the total offensive production. All four lines shone at various points in the game, but the Kuznetsov line was their most noticeable for 60 minutes.

The Hurricanes are hitting the road for a trio of games, beginning with a back-to-back over the weekend in Canada. Their first stop will be in Toronto to battle another playoff team. They'll be in Ottawa on Sunday for their first meeting since Pyotr Kochetkov and Brady Tkachuk exchanged words in December. The final stop will be on Long Island to battle the Islanders as they push to steal a playoff spot.

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