RALEIGH — The Hurricanes got two shorthanded goals and a third goal in three games from Max Pacioretty.
It still wasn’t enough to keep Carolina’s winless streak from hitting four games.
The Devils scored twice in the final minute of the second period to tie the game, and Dawson Mercer scored his second of the night in the third to lead the Devils to a 5-3 win in front of 18,092 Tuesday at PNC Arena.
“It’s not great,” Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal said of the team being 0-3-1 in its last four games following an 11-game winning streak. “It’s frustrating. I hope this group doesn’t think they’re better than they are.
“We have to come back with a better, grittier effort and get back to the way we want to play and how we want to do things around here.”
The game unraveled for the Hurricanes at the end of the second period.
After Sebastian Aho’s shorthanded goal with 2:26 left in the second period gave Carolina a 3-1 lead, New Jersey responded with a pair of goals in 18 seconds in the last minute of the middle frame.
Mercer got his first goal when he faked going around the Carolina net, tricking Carolina defenseman Dylan Coghlan into covering the far post, before cutting back to the front of the net. Defenseman Jalen Chatfield poked the puck off Mercer’s stick and off the chest of Carolina goalie Pyotr Kochetkov (18 saves), but Mercer whacked the rebound through the rookie goalie’s legs at 19:08 of the second period.
On the next shift, New Jersey forward Jesper Boqvist entered the zone with speed and dropped the puck to Mercer while shrugging off Coghlan. Mercer quickly returned the puck to the open Boqvist, who cut to the net, avoided a Kochetkov poke check and scored five-hole to even the game with 34 seconds left in the second.
“That last minute killed us, there’s no doubt,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “But we didn’t respond in the third.”
With the game tied 3-3, it took Carolina more than six minutes to record its first shot on goal in the third period, and the Hurricanes didn’t have another until there was 3:27 remaining.
In between those two shots on goal, Mercer scored again.
After Boqvist forced a Hurricanes turnover near the Devils’ blue line, he passed up to Mercer in full stride. Coghlan was caught flat-footed and Mercer drove to the net and tucked the puck around Kochetkov for what became the game-winner at 8:53 of the third.
“They had a great first two periods and then Cogs fell on one and then it ended up in the net,” Brind’Amour said of his third defense pairing. “You gotta bounce back.”
It erased what were 39 minutes of solid play.
The Hurricanes’ penalty kill led the way, going 4 for 4 and scoring two shorthanded goals, the team’s fourth and fifth of the season.
The first opened the scoring and came from an unlikely source.
With a faceoff in the Devils’ end, Martin Necas won the draw and quickly curled the puck back to Jesperi Kotkaniemi for a quick shot that beat Vitek Vanecek (25 saves) at 13:03 of the first period for his seventh goal of the season.
It was just the 12th shorthanded shift of the season for Kotkaniemi, who got the opportunity because Jordan Staal was in the penalty box and despite having just 90 seconds of penalty kill time coming into the game.
“It was necessity there,” Brind’Amour said of Kotkaniemi being on the ice in that situation. “A penalty killer’s in the box, and we’ve introduced (the penalty kill) to him a little bit here.”
Then after Pacioretty scored just before the game’s midway point, Carolina got its second shorthanded goal when, on a 2-on-1, Teuvo Teravainen slid a pass through New Jersey defenseman Dougie Hamilton’s legs and to Aho for a two-goal lead.
“He’s a world-class passer,” Aho said of Teravainen, who now has assists in three of the last four games in what has been a down season for the 28-year-old winger.
Brind’Amour wasn’t ready to announce that Teravainen had turned a corner on his season with his recent play.
“I don’t know,” the coach said. “I mean, he was fine. Obviously those were, at the time, big plays. So we need more of those out of him.”
The Hurricanes could also use better play in goal.
During the four-game skid, Carolina’s goalies have allowed 15 goals on 94 shots — an .840 save percentage. Kochetkov has given up four goals in each of his three starts, all losses, since backing up Antti Raanta while recovering from a minor injury. That matches the 12 goals he allowed in all of December when he went 7-0-1 and was named NHL Rookie of the Month.
Kochetkov also continued a recent trend of giving up a soft goal, allowing Devils defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler’s bad angle shot to sneak past his pad in the first period and tie the game at 1-1 late in the first period after a video review confirmed the puck crossed the goal line.
“I’m sure he’s down on himself,” Brind’Amour said of Kochetkov. “He was playing great and then his injury took him out of the lineup for a little bit, and since he’s been back he hasn’t had that same results.
“He’s a young kid — I mean, that’s human nature. I’m sure he wishes he could have one of those back, but this is big boy hockey, so that’s how it goes.”
Notes: Stefan Noesen returned to the lineup after leaving the Jan. 3 game at the Rangers with an injury and missing the last two games. He finished with no shot attempts in 8:29 minutes of ice time. … Derek Stepan and Calvin de Haan were healthy scratches. … Pacioretty had five shots on goal and a game-high 12 shot attempts. He has 13 shots on goal in three games since returning from his Achilles injury.