Hurricanes defeat Devils 6-3 in regular-season finale
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Jesperi Kotkaniemi had a goal and two assists and the Carolina Hurricanes closed a record-setting regular season with a 6-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night.
The Hurricanes, who clinched the Metropolitan Division title two nights earlier, added to their franchise records for wins (54) and points (116) in a season.
“That’s a grind,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “To do it the way our group did it, I think is pretty special. … That’s a pretty darn good record and we did it the right way.”
Ethan Bear, Martin Necas, Teuvo Teravainen, Steven Lorentz and Jordan Martinook also scored for the Hurricanes, who will carry a six-game winning streak into the playoffs.
“All eyes ahead,” Martinook said. “It’s going to be about us getting ready and start the next journey.”
Carolina goalie Antti Raanta made 27 saves and improved to 7-0-1 all-time against New Jersey.
“We’re kind of taking the steps in the right direction,” Lorentz said. “I think we have another step to take come playoff time.”
The Hurricanes scored four or more goals in eight of their last 10 games.
“You can see why they’re in the playoffs,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “Their puck play, they’re strong on pucks. That’s a team that you can use as an example of how hard you’ve got to skate and how hard you’ve got to play.”
Fabian Zetterlund, Jesper Bratt and Jimmy Vesey scored for the Devils, who are 0-3-2 in their last five games with one game remaining. Pavel Zacha had two assists and Andrew Hammond stopped 30 shots.
Martinook’s forechecking disrupted New Jersey’s transition out of its defensive zone and Bear was rewarded with the goal in just his seventh game in a month’s span to open the scoring.
Necas and Kotkaniemi added goals in the game’s first 13 minutes. Combined with assists on the game’s first two goals, Kotkaniemi secured his first three-point outing in his 237th career game and became the only Carolina player this season with a three-point period.
Kotkaniemi was back on the ice after missing the last five games, playing just twice since late March because of injuries.
“At the beginning when they had the 3-0 lead, you can’t give up that,” Zetterlund said. “It’s too easy (for them). … We kind of know they’re going to go out aggressive.”
Zetterlund’s second goal of his career came 62 seconds after New Jersey fell into the 3-0 hole. Bratt’s third-period goal gave him a share of the team lead with 26.
Captain Jordan Staal, second-leading scorer Andrei Svechnikov and defenseman Jaccob Slavin sat out for the Hurricanes, who sought to limit wear and tear as much as possible.
Defenseman Brady Skjei and right winger Jesper Fast played in all 82 games this season for the Hurricanes. Slavin (79 games), Staal (78) and Svechnikov (78) are staples in Carolina’s lineup.
Devils center Dawson Mercer can become his team’s only player to appear in all 82 games if he plays Friday night. New Jersey’s Nico Hischier, who is second on the team with 59 points, was scratched Thursday night.
AT LEAST ONE TROPHY
Raanta and teammate Frederik Andersen were winners of the Jennings Trophy that goes to the goaltenders having played at least 25 games for the team allowing the fewest goals. Carolina gave up a league-low 202 goals.
It’s the first time members of the Carolina franchise have won the trophy.
“It’s definitely a team award,” Brind’Amour said. “Obviously, you’ve got to have good goalies to have a good team. It’s a good little capper to the season.”
Andersen, who has been out since April 16 with a lower-body injury, and Raanta finished with 35 and 15 wins, respectively, in their first seasons with Carolina. Andersen is the eighth goalie to win the trophy with multiple teams, also part of Anaheim’s effort in 2015-16.
Alex Lyon (1-0-1), Jack LaFontaine (0-1-0) and Pyotr Kochetkov (3-0-0) also played seven total games in net with the Hurricanes this season.
The Hurricanes finished with a 29-8-4 record in home games, with the 62 points just two shy of the team’s PNC Arena record, established during the Stanley Cup-winning 2005-06 season.
Carolina has secured home-ice advantage for at least two playoff series, if it advances that far.
Devils: Host Detroit Red Wings on Friday night.
Hurricanes: Home against a team to be determined to open the playoffs next week.
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