Kochetkov shines, Aho stuns Panthers with late goal in 1-0 Hurricanes win

The rookie goalie made a career-high 44 saves in the win

Hurricanes goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov makes a save during Carolina's 1-0 win Thursday over the Panthers at PNC Arena. (Karl B. DeBlaker / AP Photo)

RALEIGH — The Hurricanes and Panthers put on one of the more thrilling games of the season Thursday, and Sebastian Aho’s goal with 18.9 seconds remaining the only blemish on the scoreboard in a 1-0 Carolina win at PNC Arena.

Pyotr Kochetkov made a career-high 44 saves, outdueling Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky (28 saves) to earn the shutout win.

Three observations

1. It looked like Carolina was going to suffer a heartbreaking loss when former Hurricanes draft pick Eetu Luostarinen redirected a shot past Kochetkov with 3:18 remaining. But the Hurricanes challenged for offside, and the goal was taken off the board after review showed Luostarinen had entered the zone early.

“When they’re close, you’re always saying, ‘Check it, check it,’ and then we’ve got guys checking it in there,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “And then, to be honest, I didn’t even have to wait to hear it because I just saw it on the replay, and it wasn’t even close. So you just yell at the ref right away.”

Those “guys checking it” are video coach Chris Huffine and team communications coordinator David Piper, who are hunkered down in the coach’s room keeping an eye out for any possible reviews.

“Obviously that was a good challenge by Huff and Pipes,” Aho said.

2. Play-by-play broadcaster Mike Maniscalco’s call perfectly encapsulated Aho’s game-winning goal — “From a nightmare to a dream!”

Aho’s goal, his second this month in a 1-0 win, had all the dramatics you could ask for from a top-tier game.

After Andrei Svechnikov’s initial shot was blocked, Aho got the puck, spun and fired a shot past Bobrovsky from the edge of the right circle for the game’s only goal.

“Two very good teams, crowd is on their feet — that’s just the good stuff,” Aho said of scoring the winning goal. “You just want to come on the winning side of these games, and we’re able to get that goal, winner there at the end. Obviously, it feels good, not gonna lie.”

Don’t let the play Jesper Fast made be overlooked. Fast had the chance to try and hit Dmitry Orlov with a stretch pass on the play, but his passing window closed and he instead deferred to Svechnikov, who was flying through the neutral zone.

“Totally, that was a great play by him,” Brind’Amour said of Fast. “First of all, getting in control and looking to make a play and then making the right one, to process all that. “So that’s really what gets the puck to our best player, and then he made it count.”

That speed forced the Panthers’ defense to back off, so when Svechnikov’s shot was blocked by defenseman Niko Mikkola, Aho had plenty of space to get off his shot.

“He does it right every single game,” Aho said of Fast. “You might not see his work on the scoreboard every night, but he’s a huge player for us.”

3. There has been plenty of wondering how different last year’s Eastern Conference final would have been if Svechnikov had been healthy for it. Not that Svechnikov is out looking to hurt players, but his first period hit on Matthew Tkachuk knocked the Panthers star out of the game.

“You take that guy from any lineup, it’s gonna hurt you,” Aho said of Svechnikov making an impact after missing last season’s playoff series against the Panthers. “He plays hard, does everything for us, a great linemate. I’m lucky to have him on my line, and I just try to make the most of it.”

Couple that with defenseman Gustav Forsling playing just 4:52 before exiting, and Carolina had the Panthers down to 16 skaters early in the game.

Number to know

44 — Shots on goal for the Panthers, the most the Hurricanes have allowed in a regular season game since Florida had 46 in a 3-2 Carolina overtime win on March 1, 2021.


Pyotr Kochetkov, Hurricanes goalie — Kochetkov had the best game of his young career, stopping 44 shots and earning his seventh shutout in 52 career regular season games. His save on Evan Rodrigues will likely stay on highlight reels for the foreseeable future.

It was an important game for Kochetkov playing against his countryman, the 35-year-old Bobrovsky.

“Bob is an unbelievable goalie, unbelievable man,” Kochetkov said of the Florida goalie. “For me, today was a little bit (of a) special day, special game. I really wanted to play together with him — it’s not together, it’s battle with him. This is just one game.”

It might be one game, but Kochetkov made a statement — a statement that he’s the goalie to beat for Carolina’s No. 1 job and that he’s been overlooked as a Calder Trophy candidate as the NHL’s top rookie.

“Unreal,” Aho said of Kochetkov. “What else can you ask from the goalie? He just (gave) us every chance to win this hockey game, and it’s good to see him feeling good about himself.”


Jordan Staal, Hurricanes center — Let’s not besmirch Staal — he stuck to center Aleksander Barkov like glue all night and kept the Florida captain off the scoresheet. Barkov had just four shot attempts in nearly nine minutes of five-on-five time against Staal.

But Staal was guilty of the four-minute double-minor in the third period, a pivotal moment that Carolina needed to survive without him, the team’s top penalty-killing forward.

The Hurricanes killed off the penalty, which Brind’Amour called, along with Kochetkov, “the difference in the game.”

“I just focus on (the puck),” Kochetkov said of his mindset on the penalty kill. “The boys, lots of good blocked shots. I see a couple of shots — good penalty kill, great job. (The) PK’s awesome every game.”

They said it

“I don’t want (to) fight, I just want control. Panthers six boys, my team five boys. I just focus (on) these guys no touch my guys.”

— Hurricanes goalie Pyotr Kochetkov on joining the postgame scrum while the Panthers had their goalie pulled for an extra attacker.