RALEIGH, N.C. (AP)Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored 20 seconds into the game and rookie goalie Pyotr Kochetkov stopped the first 35 shots he faced as the Carolina Hurricanes beat the struggling New Jersey Devils 4-1 on Tuesday night in a matchup of Metropolitan Division leaders.
Jordan Staal, Teuvo Teravainen and Stefan Noesen also scored for the Hurricanes, who have a 12-game points streak and moved into first place in the division, two points ahead of the Devils. Jaccob Slavin had two assists.
”It’s two points,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said after his team improved to 7-1-0 against Metropolitan Division foes. ”It’s not a standings time for me.”
Kochetkov made 37 saves overall, including a stop on Jesper Bratt’s breakaway in the final 30 seconds of the second period.
”I feel like they were doing what they wanted to do,” Brind’Amour said. ”We were able to capitalize on a few of their mistakes.”
The Devils lost their sixth straight game. A stunning downfall considering New Jersey lost only four times through the end of November – a span of 23 games.
Jack Hughes scored with 4:36 remaining as the Devils, who trailed 3-0 at the time, avoided their first shutout of the season. Hughes leads New Jersey with 17 goals.
Devils goalie Vitek Vanecek stopped 10 of 13 shots in two periods before being pulled in favor of Mackenzie Blackwood, who made six saves.
The Hurricanes put three shots on goal in the game’s first 20 seconds. Kotkaniemi knocked in his own rebound for his fourth goal and the fastest score to start a game for Carolina since a goal 12 seconds into a Feb. 16, 2020, game against Edmonton.
”It’s good to get a nice start there right away,” Kotkaniemi said.
Brind’Amour called that the Hurricanes’ best shift of the game.
”That’s a tough team to contain, so it was always nice to get the lead,” Staal said.
That’s not the early tone the Devils needed.
”Terrible play by us,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. ”We beat ourselves on the goals against.”
Staal’s goal came at 4:17 of the second period. He beat the Devils down the ice in transition on the left side and drilled the puck past Vanecek.
Just over two minutes later, Teravainen scored a short-handed goal that gave the Hurricanes a 3-0 lead.
Through two periods, the Devils built a 27-13 advantage in shots on goal.
The Devils were 0-for-4 on power plays, but Ruff described those as providing great moments without desired results.
”It comes down to execution,” he said.
HIS TURN AGAIN
Kochetkov has played in nine of Carolina’s last 10 games, with eight starts among those. His record is 10-1-4.
”It’s just a question of how much do you play him when you’re in that groove,” Brind’Amour said. ”You got to be cognizant of the wear and tear.”
By going 8-0-2 in his last 10 games, he’s tied for the longest points streak by a goalie in franchise history.
Blackwood played for the first time since Nov. 3 after missing time with a knee sprain.
”It feels good to be back,” he said. ”Obviously not ideal tonight.”
The Devils have two more games this week and Blackwood figures to be part of the plan.
”(Good) to get him a little feel,” Ruff said. ”I liked what I saw.”
The Devils made a goalie change for just the second time in the past month. . The Hurricanes have two short-handed goals this season. It was New Jersey’s second allowed short-handed goal.
Devils: At Florida on Wednesday night.
Hurricanes: At Pittsburgh on Thursday night.
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