Carolina Hurricanes stifle Panthers behind red-hot Pyotr Kochetkov, stout penalty kill

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The Florida Panthers came to PNC Arena on Thursday looking to make some history.

The Carolina Hurricanes didn’t let it happen.

Sebastian Aho’s goal with 18.9 seconds left in regulation gave the Canes a 1-0 victory over the Panthers as goalie Pyotr Kochetkov had 44 saves to earn his seventh career shutout, and second in a row on home ice.

On a rush into the Florida zone, Andrei Svechnikov had a shot blocked by Niki Mikkola, but Aho was there to collect the puck and rip a shot past Sergei Bobrovsky.

The Panthers (37-16-4) had won 11 straight road games this season, one shy of tying the NHL record set by the Detroit Red Wings (2005-06) and later equaled by the Minnesota Wild (2014-15).

After a scoreless first two periods, Canes captain Jordan Staal was assessed a double-minor at 4:01 of the third period after high-sticking Nick Cousins. But the Canes penalty killers did their job, Kochetkov was a wall in net and Carolina killed it off.

Feb 22, 2024; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov (16) makes a pass attempt past Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov (52) during the second period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 22, 2024; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov (16) makes a pass attempt past Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov (52) during the second period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Canes (34-17-5) then went on their first power play six minutes later as Staal was held by Florida’s Dmitry Kulikov, but the Panthers made the kill.

Florida’s Euro Luostarinen got the puck past Kochetkov with 3:18 left in regulation, but the goal was overturned after review, an offside call that kept the game scoreless. Aho also missed out on a chance in front of Bobrovsky that would have given Carolina the first goal.

The game was the Panthers’ first in Raleigh since the Eastern Conference final in last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. Florida won the first two games of that series at PNC Arena, the first in four overtimes, and Matthew Tkachuk merrily hustled the Panthers off the ice after the win in Game 2.

The Panthers won the series in four one-goal games — a sweep not forgotten by Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour, nor his team. Brind’Amour, before the game, mentioned a “little payback.”

The big reason for the sweep was Bobrovsky, who got on a roll in the playoffs and continued it against the Canes.

Thursday, it was more of the same from the guy known as “Bob.” The Canes had shooting attempts by Jordan Martinook in the first and Tony DeAngelo in the second hit the post, but Bobrovssky again was stopping everything.

In the second, Bobrovsky was down in the crease and the Canes’ Martin Necas looking at a lot of net. But Bobrovsky jabbed out his left leg to make a spectacular stop.

Feb 22, 2024; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) stops the scoring attempt by Carolina Hurricanes center Martin Necas (88) during the second period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 22, 2024; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) stops the scoring attempt by Carolina Hurricanes center Martin Necas (88) during the second period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Kochetkov saw more shots than Bobrovsky in the first two periods and also made the stops to keep it scoreless into the third. He made a sharp glove save on a Anton Lundell shot in the second, then made another big stop early in the third on a Evan Rodrigues shot.

Not seen in the playoffs last season: the Canes’ Andrei Svechnikov, who was out with a knee injury.

Also not seen in the playoffs: Tkachuk taking a big hit, skating to the bench in pain and leaving the game.

Svechnikov was responsible for that late in the first period. Tkakchuk did not return and the Panthers also were without defenseman Gustav Forsling in the final two periods.

Svechnikov hit Tkachuk in the chest. Even with Jaccob Slavin behind Tkachuk, like a buffer against the wall, Tkachuk was left bending over and soon out of the game.

In hockey, there’s always the talk about taking away time and space. In this game, there was little time to make plays and very little space. It was physical, but clean.