RALEIGH — For the second straight night, the Hurricanes found themselves in a playoff-style game.
Tied at a goal apiece with the Sharks late in the third period Sunday, Carolina used another night of stellar goaltending and a goal by Andrei Svechnikov with 3:44 remaining to win 2-1 in front of 15,975 at PNC Arena.
After Sebastian Aho won an offensive zone faceoff and set defenseman Brett Pesce for a one-timer, Svechnikov fought off San Jose defenseman Brent Burns, located the rebound and put the puck past former teammate James Reimer for the winning goal.
“After the faceoff I tried to go to the net,” Svechnikov said, “and it was kind of my ice, I didn’t want to give it. It was a lucky rebound for me and I just put it in the net.”
The game-winner capped a career-best month for Svechnikov, who finished January with seven goals and nine assists in 12 games.
“Is he just starting? Is he gonna keep getting better?” Brind’Amour asked. “Yeah, he’s gonna. It’s hard to believe, I think he still can get better.”
At the other end of the ice, Frederik Andersen was showing why he’s headed Las Vegas for the All-Star Game this week.
After watching Antti Raanta limit New Jersey to one goal in a 2-1 win the night before, Andersen stopped all 15 shots he faced in the first 40 minutes to keep Carolina ahead after Vincent Trocheck had scored his 11th goal 4:36 into the game to give the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead.
“I said last time he’s a superstar,” Svechnikov said of Andersen, “but yeah, he’s playing a really good game. He’s gonna keep doing that, and obviously we’ve got big confidence with him.”
The Sharks, however, didn’t go quietly as Rudolfs Balcers tied the game at 3:36 of the third period.
“It was a tight game and we didn’t get the bounce there in the third,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “It was like, ‘Oh, it’s maybe not going to go our way.’ But I love how the guys just kept sticking with the plan.”
That set up Svechnikov’s go-ahead goal that was underlined by a team effort on defense. Down by a goal in the final minutes, San Jose pushed for the equalizer. But Carolina, backstopped by Andersen (27 saves), battled to keep the puck out of its net.
That included Pesce making a lunging block of a rebound attempt that resulted in him going to the locker room with a skate cut that Brind’Amour described as being to his chest.
“Thankfully, that’s the best area to get one of those, a lot of padding there,” Brind’Amour said. “So I think he’ll be fine.”
The win was Carolina’s fourth straight, all coming in a six-day stretch that will feel like the norm for the rest of the season as the schedule condenses due to all the previously postponed games the Hurricanes need to make up. Their Eastern Conference-best 31-9-2 record will be tested when they play their final 40 games in 81 days starting with back-to-back games in Canada against the Maple Leafs and Senators on Feb. 7-8.
“Our second half of the season’s gonna be a tough schedule, so we’re gonna need to be prepared for that,” Trocheck said. “And this personal stretch was a good test.”
Pesce and most of the Hurricanes — Aho and Brind’Amour will join Andersen in Las Vegas this week — will get a chance to heal and rest during the All-Star break. They know the job isn’t close to done.
“We’re halfway through the race — this race — and there’s another race we got to get on and get to later,” Brind’Amour said. “But we’re, up to this point, really happy with the group.”
Notes: After a stretch in which they allowed power play goals in three straight games, the Hurricanes have killed all nine penalties they have taken in the last four. Carolina’s penalty kill ranks first in the NHL at 89.0%. … The Hurricanes are allowing a league-low 2.33 goals per game, and Sunday was the 15th game this season they have allowed one or fewer goals. … Jordan Staal’s goal drought hit 33 games. He last scored Oct. 29. … Ethan Bear earned an assist on Trocheck’s goal, his first point since Jan. 1. … Teuvo Teravainen missed his second straight game with an injury.