March Ends with Another Shutout as Kochetkov Shuts Down the Canadiens in a 3-0 Win

The top line combines for six points in the third, and both special teams units score a goal as Kochetkov's 26-save shutout pushes the Canes to 101 points.
Carolina Hurricanes v Montreal Canadiens
Carolina Hurricanes v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

The Hurricanes completed the first big step in their quest for the Stanley Cup by clinching a postseason berth on Thursday night in a 4-0 win over the Detroit Red Wings. While it was a big accomplishment for the group, there is still a lot of hockey left for them to play before the postseason grind begins. The Montreal Canadiens welcomed the Canes to town as they put their three-game win streak on the line.

Pyotr Kochetkov took the net for the Hurricanes, looking to get back in the win column after consecutive losses to Washington and Pittsburgh. The rest of the lineup stayed intact, with Jesper Fast missing his sixth straight game. The Canadiens sent Samuel Montembeault out to defend the net for the home team.

Scoreless first periods have become the norm for the Hurricanes lately. There were several close calls early that were denied by the iron. Mike Matheson thought he'd gotten an early one after it hit a Hurricanes' skate, but the replay showed that it rode the crossbar and hit the far post to stay out. A few minutes later, Seth Jarvis rang the iron on a great chance from the left dot. The chances went back and forth for the entire period, but neither goalie would be beaten for 20 minutes.

Special teams would play a big part in the remainder of the game. The Hurricanes drew the first power play of the night early in the second period, and while they had some great chances, nothing found the back of the net. Shortly after the power play ended, Evgeny Kuznetsov played the puck over the glass unimpeded, giving Montreal the man advantage.

While on the kill, the Hurricanes would find the first goal. After Pyotr Kochetkov came up with huge stops on Juraj Slafkovsky and Alex Newhook, Teuvo Teravainen went all-out, making a diving play to spring Jordan Staal for a short-handed breakaway. Staal placed it perfectly low off the post and into the net to earn the Canes' tenth short-handed marker of the season. The Canes would kill the penalty and would do it again late in the period, as Staal's goal stood as the only goal through two periods.

After 40 minutes, the Hurricanes' big line had plenty of chances but hadn't cashed in. That changed early in the third period. Martin Necas drew a penalty, allowing the top power-play unit to go to work. Jake Guentzel's shot hit Seth Jarvis' skate, bouncing the puck perfectly to Sebastian Aho with an open net. The Canes' top scorer set a new career-high in points by putting his 84th point into the back of the net.

After scoring on the power play, the Canes' defense refused to give Montreal many chances. Pyotr Kochetkov had made a few stops with the game still at 1-0 but faced very little after that. The Canes' penalty kill wouldn't allow the Canadiens to get into the zone, drawing the ire of the Montreal faithful. The top line would ice the game, with all three forwards combining to get Seth Jarvis the empty-net tally. Kochetkov would remain perfect, finishing the night with 26 stops for his fourth shutout and 20th win of the season in a 3-0 victory.

While we've known it all season, this team is never satisfied with where they are. They played a phenomenal game on Thursday to make the playoffs but didn't take their foot off the gas to follow it up with another shutout victory in this one. There easily could've been a lull, especially against a team at the bottom of the standings that is playing very well at the moment. Instead, Pyotr Kochetkov returned to form, putting the team on his back to get the job done.

They didn't find any success at 5-on-5 in Montreal, but their special teams were outstanding. The penalty kill, which officially overtook Los Angeles as the best in the league, played a large part. Montreal had some good chances on their first two attempts, only to be stoned by Pyotr Kochetkov. Then, Teuvo Teravainen dove to spring Jordan Staal, creating the opening goal short-handed. At that moment, it felt like the game was squarely in the Canes' corner.

The power play might not have scored on their opening attempt, but they had a few great chances within a few feet of the crease. Their second opportunity put the game away for good. They earned the lucky bounce to Sebastian Aho, who added to his spectacular month. In the battle between big lines, the Canes owned a decided edge. Montreal's stellar trio of young guns was good, but no group is clicking quite like Aho, Seth Jarvis, and Jake Guentzel. All three picked up multi-point games once again.

The Hurricanes have earned a much-needed break after playing 14 games in 24 days in March. They won't return to the ice until Thursday to begin the final stretch of the regular season. Thursday night against Boston kicks off a three-game homestand, finishing the home portion of the regular season. The Capitals will be in town on Friday night to complete the back-to-back before Columbus journeys in next Sunday.