RALEIGH — The Hurricanes scored on the game’s opening shift to force the Devils to chase the game. Then Carolina chased New Jersey’s goalie.
The Hurricanes got goals from Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Jordan Staal and Teuvo Teravainen and were never really threatened despite nearly getting doubled up in shots in a 4-1 win in front of a sellout crowd Tuesday at PNC Arena.
Kotkaniemi needed just 20 seconds to put Carolina ahead for good.
After nearly jamming in the puck seconds before, Kotkaniemi and the Hurricanes reset in the New Jersey end. Defenseman Calvin de Haan passed to Seth Jarvis in the corner, and the second-year player — playing his 100th NHL game — went back to Kotkaniemi, who backhanded the puck past Vitek Vanecek for his fourth goal of the season and a 1-0 Carolina lead just 20 seconds into the game.
“That’s pretty big,” Kotkaniemi said. “You’re competing for the same points, so it’s good to get a nice start there right away, get the crowd going on our side.”
Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour called it “probably our best shift of the game” as the Devils carried play and outshot Carolina 38-20.
But the Hurricanes’ secret weapon — their red-hot rookie goalie — wouldn’t let New Jersey back in the game.
Pyotr Kochetkov made 37 saves, not allowing a goal until there were under five minutes remaining and improving to 10-1-4 on the season as the Hurricanes extended their point streak to 12 games.
“He stole the show, for sure,” Staal said. “He was our best player by far.”
Vanecek, meanwhile, lasted just 40 minutes, allowing three goals on 13 shots and getting pulled after two periods.
Carolina exposed his glove hand twice in the second period to pad its lead.
After a Martin Necas goal was disallowed just 69 seconds into the middle frame, a flip by Carolina defenseman Jaccob Slavin was settled by Jordan Martinook near center ice, and he dished to Staal on the left wing. The Carolina captain entered the New Jersey zone and called his own number, ripping a shot past Vanecek for his ninth goal and a 2-0 lead at 4:17 of the second.
“I just closed my eyes and hoped it goes in,” Staal said.
Just over two minutes later on the penalty kill, Teuvo Teravainen seemed to sense Vanecek’s struggles, quickly wristing a shot through Alexander Holtz’s legs and past the Devils goalie’s glove for a 3-0 lead at 6:21 of the middle frame.
“We need him on the scoresheet, at the end of the day,” Brind’Amour said. “I think lately he’s been getting on the scoresheet, which is good.”
The Devils finally solved Kochetkov when Jack Hughes came in off the right wing and shot past the rookie’s blocker with 4:36 left.
But Carolina quickly responded as Stefan Noesen, set up behind the Devils’ goal, banked a shot in off backup Mackenzie Blackwood’s elbow and in for his sixth goal of the season and first against his former team.
“He’s good around the net,” Brind’Amour said. “He’s very crafty. That was a big goal because, we were up two, but it just kind of put the game away.”
It also put the Devils behind Carolina in the Metropolitan Division.
On Dec. 9, New Jersey held a nine-point lead in the Metro, but just 11 days later the Hurricanes have passed the Devils for sole possession of first.
“We want to be there at the end of the year,” Brind’Amour said when asked if being in first meant anything. “So yeah, to do that — as I said it’s two points. It’s allowing us to push toward that. But it’s not a standings time right now.”
Notes: The Devils’ 18-shot advantage was the most against the Hurricanes this season. The previous high was five. … The shorthanded goal was the fifth of Teravainen’s career. … Staal has the game-winning goals in consecutive games, the first time he’s done that since coming to Carolina. The last time he had back-to-back game-winning goals was in the 2010-11 season when he had them on Jan. 12 and Jan. 15 with the Penguins.