Andersen solid in return, Skjei’s 2 goals lift Hurricanes past Habs

The game was overshadowed by the acquisition of Jake Guentzel

Hurricanes goaltender Frederik Andersen salutes the crowd after being named first star of Carolina's 4-1 win over the Canadiens on Thursday in Raleigh. (Karl B. DeBlaker / AP Photo)

RALEIGH — Frederik Andersen made his return to the net a memorable one, making 24 saves in his first start in four months to lead the Hurricanes to a 4-1 win over visiting Montreal on Thursday in Raleigh on a night when Carolina acquired Penguins prized winger Jake Guentzel.

Brady Skjei scored twice to reach double digits in goals for the second straight year, Andrei Svechnikov had a goal and an assist, and Stefan Noesen also scored for Carolina.

Three observations

1. The Hurricanes had the look early against the Canadiens of a team that went four days without playing a game and also had the trade deadline weighing on them. Skjei said they found out right before the game that Michael Bunting was being scratched for “trade-related reasons,” further complicating matters.

“It’s hard. It’s definitely — it’s not normal,” he said of life around the deadline. “You go through it every year, but it’s definitely a little different feel in the locker room going into a game like that and you see when your teammates leave out of nowhere. You don’t really know what’s going on.

“I thought we did a good job of getting past it. We didn’t come out great, but our full game was pretty solid.”

After allowing a goal in the first six minutes, Carolina got the equalizer when Skjei charged the net and backhanded a shot past Sam Montembeault (35 saves). Noesen’s 14th goal of the season — a new career high; he scored 13 both last season with Carolina and in 2017-18 with the Devils — with 25 seconds left in the second period put the Hurricanes up for good, and Skjei scored again followed by Svechnikov’s empty-netter in the third period.

2. Andersen made his first start in more than four months, shaking off a tough first period goal and settling in to make several key stops and look like the Freddie of old. Andersen last played Nov. 2, sidelined by deep-vein thrombosis that led to a blood clotting issue, but he said by the start of Thursday’s second period he felt more confident.

“I knew I was going to be a little bit rusty, but after the first intermission I just kind of got to settle in,” he said.

Andersen’s return gives Carolina options in net. Rookie Pyotr Kochetkov has carried much of the load for the Hurricanes in the veteran’s absence, but Andersen proved last season — with a 5-3 record, .927 save percentage and 1.83 goals-against average — that he can man the net for a Stanley Cup contender.

His return had value beyond his on-ice performance.

“That’s probably the bigger story,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “Really for him, I’m sure he had — well, I know he had a lot of doubts about just ever lacing them up again. Just to kind of knock that one out and feel good about it. Whether we won or lost, just getting back out there and doing something that obviously he loves to do.”

3. Thursday’s game took a back seat to trade deadline news: The Hurricanes were on the cusp of landing Guentzel from the Penguins. The deal involved Bunting, who Brind’Amour said was scratched at the last minute.

“All of a sudden they came down and said we might have to hold him out,” Brind’Amour said. “Obviously, we did.”

While Brind’Amour couldn’t spill the beans about the trade until it was completed, Skjei did give inadvertent confirmation before the trade was finalized.

Skjei played for assistant coach Mike Guentzel, Jake’s father, at the University of Minnesota and knows the family well. When asked about that relationship, Skjei unknowingly made the day’s worst-kept secret look like a done deal.

“I know the family really well and Jake’s an unbelievable guy,” Skjei said, “and he’s gonna fit in great here and all the guys are gonna love him and you guys will enjoy him too.”

When told the deal wasn’t done yet, Skjei froze.

“I guess I don’t know,” he sheepishly said when reporters jokingly asked if he was confirming the deal.

Number to know

3 — Teams with three defensemen with multiple goals in a game this season after Skjei became Carolina’s third with his two goals Thursday. Brent Burns (Jan. 5) and Brett Pesce (Jan. 13) also scored twice in a game this season for the Hurricanes. The other two teams are Columbus (Ivan Provorov, Damon Severson and Zach Werenski) and Detroit (Shayne Gostisbehere, Olli Maatta and Jake Walman).


Brady Skjei — PR leaks aside, Skjei scored two spectacular goals to lead the charge for the Hurricanes. His first goal came on a nice exchange with Svechnikov, leading to an open lane to drive the net.

Skjei showed off his mitts again on his second goal, sneaking behind a napping Cole Caufield to take a stretch pass from Pesce and convert on the breakaway.

“I was screaming for it. … I got a step behind the guy and yelled for and it was right on my stick,” Skjei said of Pesce’s tape-to-tape pass.


Michael Bunting, Hurricanes forward — The trade feels a lot like when Carolina dealt defenseman Calvin de Haan just one year into a four-year, $18.2 million contract.

It wasn’t that de Haan played poorly in that first year with the Hurricanes, it was more that Carolina realized that perhaps its investment in him didn’t match its needs. Bunting was on pace for 17 goals and just under 50 points — maybe a touch below expectations for him, but not anything terrible — but his defensive shortcomings were glaring at times.

That doesn’t make Bunting a bad player, but it does make him a good piece in a Guentzel deal. Pittsburgh GM Kyle Dumas has a long history with Bunting that dates back to the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds and continued the last two seasons with the Maple Leafs. Bunting reunites with a familiar face and will probably get to play alongside Sidney Crosby, while Carolina sheds his $4.5 million salary for the next two years. That might give them the ability to re-sign Guentzel if they desire.

They said it

“It was really exciting to be to be out there with the guys again and feel the energy of the crowd. Just being back, it’s pretty nice.”

— Hurricanes goalie Frederik Andersen