Playing their final game before heading out on the road, the Carolina Hurricanes looked to follow up on their win over the Avalanche on Thursday. With the organization celebrating their Hartford heritage, they welcomed the New Jersey Devils to town for the second time in just over two weeks. Sporting some classy white jerseys, the team hoped they'd be hearing Brass Bonanza all night.
The Canes got a big boost to the lineup as Andrei Svechnikov returned after missing the last six games. Pyotr Kochetkov earned his third straight start after an up-and-down performance against Colorado. The Devils countered with Vitek Vanecek, who relieved Nico Daws the last time they met. One other big change from the last meeting was Jack Hughes being in the lineup, having returned from injury in their last game.
From the jump, this was a much different game from when the Devils were in town before the All-Star Break. Both teams earned power plays in the first five minutes, both of which were killed, though Andrei Svechnikov nearly found some daylight in his first game back. The penalty kill was forced back into action after Jalen Chatfield lifted the puck over the glass, and the Canes nearly broke if not for some well-timed saves by Pyotr Kochetkov. Despite finishing the period even in shots, it felt like the Devils had the momentum going into the break of a scoreless game.
The march to the penalty box continued for the Hurricanes early in the second period as Andrei Svechnikov was escorted off for tripping. Tyler Toffoli tried to get a little creative with his angles, but Pyotr Kochetkov was having none of it. The Canes had their chances throughout the period, being denied on two 2-on-1s. Both sides were throwing everything at the net, but nothing was available against either goalie. As the horn sounded to end the period, the score remained empty.
The standoff between Pyotr Kochetkov and Vitek Vanecek took center stage in the third period. For every save Vanecek made, Kochetkov responded with one of his own. Jordan Martinook had arguably the best chance of the night early in the period as Seth Jarvis sprung him on a breakaway. Unfortunately, Vanecek stood his ground. Shortly after, Martinook drew a high stick from Ondrej Palat, giving the Canes their second power play of the night. A puck managed to squeak through Vanecek, but John Marino was there to clear it out of the crease. The Canes' penalty was called into action after the power play ended, and they came up with their fourth kill of the night. With a few more stops for each goalie, the scoreless tie had lasted 60 minutes, setting up an intense overtime.
With the ice opening up a little for 3-on-3, the Devils' skill took over in the early stages. Tyler Toffoli had two great chances, including a one-timer with a little room over the blocker, but Pyotr Kochetkov stone-walled him. The Canes didn't have a shot against Vitek Vanecek in overtime until the play that ultimately won them the game. Martin Necas made a great move to the middle of the slot before firing. Vanecek made the initial stop, but Sebastian Aho was there to knock the rebound out of mid-air and into the net. With Brass Bonanza playing in the background, the team celebrated a 1-0 win to notch their 30th victory of the season.
While the night ended with a win, this was far from a pretty game for the Hurricanes. They were incredibly sloppy with the puck all night. Brent Burns seemed off. I noted several times when he turned the puck over, leading to good chances for the Devils. It wasn't just Burns, though. The team finished the night with 31 giveaways, a number that I've rarely seen from them.
In the end, a win is a win, no matter how ugly or pretty it is. On a night of celebration, this was one they really needed to get, especially after their rough performance on Hall of Fame Day in January. The Cooperalls during warm-ups, the special jerseys for the game, and all of the staples from the Hartford days provided an excellent environment. Even the officials got into it, calling a penalty on "Hartford" at one point.
After a rough start to the game against the Avalanche, it was clear that Pyotr Kochetkov used his strong third period to elevate his start in this one. The Devils are one of the most skilled teams in the league, despite where they sit in the division and the injuries they've suffered on defense. It's not like the Devils' stars didn't play well, either. Leading goal-scorer Tyler Toffoli had seven shots. Jack Hughes had six. Nico Hischier had four. Yet, none of them could solve Kochetkov. It was even more important with how well Vitek Vanecek played on the other end. For two teams who've suffered from insufficient goaltending at times this season, you'd have never guessed it watching these two go at it.
Following as exciting a 1-0 game as you could ask for, the Hurricanes are hitting the road for their final long trip out west of the season. They'll make three stops on the trip, beginning with their first meeting of the season with the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night. They'll finish with a back-to-back with the Coyotes and Golden Knights on Friday and Saturday.