RALEIGH — The NHL playoffs are about will. In 2½ minutes early in the second period, the Hurricanes showed they wanted it more than the Devils.
Carolina opened the scoring with a power play goal and then got one at even-strength, both by Jesperi Kotkaniemi, taking control of Game 2 of their second round series with New Jersey en route to a 6-1 win in front of 18,982 Friday at PNC Arena. The Hurricanes lead the series 2-0 with Sunday’s Game 3 matinee set for Newark, New Jersey.
“It starts with second and third efforts,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said, “which you have to have.”
After neither team scored in the first period, Carolina carried over a power play into the start of the middle frame.
The Hurricanes’ second unit came out on the tail end of the man advantage, and Jack Drury won a battle along the boards to get the puck to the point. Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere quickly passed to Kotkaniemi near the right circle, and the 22-year-old crept in and ripped a shot off the blocker of Akira Schmid (21 saves) and in for a 1-0 lead 95 seconds into the second period.
“I think in the playoffs, it’s just about working hard,” Drury said.
Kotkaniemi then got his third of the series just 2½ minutes later. Linemate Jordan Martinook created chaos below the Devils’ goal line on the forecheck, and he was joined by Jesper Fast as they tied up three Devils. Kotkaniemi went to the front of the net, and when the puck popped out to him he quickly lifted a shot over Schmid’s left shoulder for a 2-0 lead at 3:58 of the period.
Kotkaniemi’s team-high six shots on goal tied a career high from his rookie season with Montreal.
“I give him credit. I give his linemates credit,” Brind’Amour said of Kotkaniemi and his line with Martinook and Fast. “They’re the ones that are helping him out too, and you gotta give those guys credit. So he was definitely better tonight, KK, no doubt about it.”
Devils coach Lindy Ruff said his team lacked patience in the second period.
“You look at the wall battle on the first power play goal, you look at the battle down low on the second goal, I think that turned the game,” he said.
The Devils didn’t have an answer for the goals — or Frederik Andersen. The Carolina goalie put together his third straight rock-solid start, stopping 28 shots. He helped the Hurricanes kill off a 5-on-3 Devils’ power play in the opening minutes of the game, and his only blemish came early in the third period when a Gostisbehere turnover led to Miles Wood scoring at 3:50.
“Freddy was great,” Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal said. “Just solid, especially early. He definitely got our bench settled down, and he made some sneaky big saves that he always seems to make look pretty easy.”
New Jersey’s lone goal only cut the deficit to 4-1. Carolina had padded its lead to four with a dazzling breakaway goal by Staal another tally by Martin Necas that came moments after a Seth Jarvis goal had been disallowed due to contact with the goalie.
“We got a goal called back,” Brind’Amour said. “It’s the right call, but we didn’t let it affect us — we score again right away.”
That sent Schmid to the bench for the second straight game, but Vitek Vanecek (8 saves) didn’t fare much better in playing the final 20 minutes.
The Hurricanes added two more goals in the third period, with Martinook stealing a pass and scoring on a breakaway and Sebastian Aho saucering the puck to Stefan Noesen on a 2-on-1 for the fifth and sixth goals, respectively.
It was the most goals by the Hurricanes in a playoff game since their Game 1 win against the Devils in the second round of the 2006 playoffs, a 6-0 win, and just the third time since relocation the team has scored six or more in the postseason.
“Right now, we’re getting it up and down the lineup. … It’s just that everybody’s doing their job right now,” Brind’Amour said. “That’s why we’re having success.”
Notes: Hurricanes goalie Antti Raanta did not dress for the game due to illness. Pyotr Kochetkov served as Carolina’s backup. … New Jersey defenseman Dougie Hamilton has no points and is a minus-5 through two games of the series. … No Hurricanes forward played more than Martin Necas, who logged 17:59.