The Carolina Hurricanes earned a much-needed 5-3 win against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, March 14 in PNC Arena.
Led by center Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s three-point performance, the Canes (44-14-8) closed out a rough stretch of games with a win over the Jets (38-27-3).
The Hurricanes came out fast in the first period, playing with a lot of energy and physicality, and they were rewarded by getting on the board first. Less than five minutes in, defenseman Jaccob Slavin pinched up on the boards, maintaining possession and ending the Canes’ scoring drought with a fortunate bounce that just beat Jets goaltender David Rittich.
The beginning of the second frame saw two quick goals less than a minute after the period started. Winnipeg defenseman Dylan DeMelo capitalized on a scuffle breaking out on the other end of the ice to score 19 seconds into the period. After DeMelo quickly silenced the crowd and evened up the score, Canes defenseman Brady Skjei got a goal of his own, ripping one right past Rittich’s glove just 39 seconds later.
Just past the 12-minute mark of the period, the Hurricanes' first star of the night, Kotkaniemi, took over the game with a clever wraparound goal to put the Canes up 2-1. He later iced the game with an empty-net goal in the third period to give the Hurricanes the sole lead of the Metropolitan Division.
Kotkaniemi has been playing in superb form in the second half of the season, recording eight points in his last six games. He has come into his role as a strong second-line center who has played well both offensively and defensively.
The Canes’ other goal of the night came from center Jack Drury, who scored his first goal of the 2023-2023 season after getting called up from the Chicago Wolves of the AHL to replace injured right wing Andrei Svechnikov. Drury connected with a previous Wolves teammate, right wing Stefan Noesen, who capitalized on a loose puck and fed it to Drury, who slotted it off the short side post.
In contrast to their effort against the New Jersey Devils on March 12, the Canes played with high energy throughout the entire game. This was on display in the second period when after a hit that sent left wing Jordan Martinook temporarily to the locker room, Noesen dropped the gloves, adding an extra spark to this tilt.
All before the end of March, the Canes will play both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Rangers twice, as well as the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning in a stretch of games that will test the Hurricanes from top to bottom. With playoff seeding on the line, many of these will feel like playoff games and will be a lot more physical than games earlier in the season.
The Canes have shown that they are up to the challenge — in the win against the Jets there were a total of 40 hits between the two teams. If the Hurricanes can establish a physical forecheck, their goal-scoring will get sorted out on its own and open up more scoring opportunities for their defenseman.
The Canes will get a couple of days rest before they take on the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Friday, March 17 at 7 p.m.
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