NEW YORK (AP)Vincent Trochek had a goal and an assist, rookie Pyotr Kochetkov stopped 31 shots and the Carolina Hurricanes beat the New York Rangers 4-3 Tuesday night to win their fifth straight and clinch the Metropolitan Division title.
Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen and Jordan Martinook also scored for Carolina, and Brady Skjei had two assists. The Hurricanes, who won their second straight division title after winning the realigned Central Division in last year’s shortened season, set franchise records with 53 wins and 114 points, topping marks set in 2005-06.
”I think you probably need to take a minute and just realize that it’s a pretty darn good year, we’ve done what we wanted to do,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. ”What’s great is guys aren’t really that excited about it. They know there’s bigger things we’re trying to accomplish.”
This was matchup of the top two teams in the Metropolitan with first place within reach for the Rangers. Instead, the Hurricanes beat them for the third time in four meetings this season – including twice at Madison Square Garden in 15 days – to take the division.
”I look forward to these kind of games,” Skjei said. ”This was a huge win for us. We are very pumped up that we won the division.”
Kochetkov, making his second career start and third straight appearance, had 11 saves in the first period, 11 in the second and nine in the third to improve to 3-0-0.
”It’s a great story, hopefully it continues,” Brind’Amour said of the 22-year-old goalie. ”Nothing is fazing him. He looks like he belongs.”
Chris Kreider scored his 52nd goal for the Rangers, who have lost two straight and three of seven and are assured of finishing second in the Metropolitan. Jacob Trouba and Alexis Lafreniere also scored, and Igor Shesterkin finished with 31 saves.
”At times I didn’t like our game, but overall we battled back,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. ”We know where we’re going to finish. … First, second, wherever you finish, you’re going to play a great team (in the playoffs).”
Aho pounced on a loose puck and fired a shot past Shesterkin for his team-leading 37th of the season 32 seconds into the third to push Carolina’s lead to 4-1.
Trouba pulled the Rangers back within two as he scored from the right point for his career-high 11th with 6:48 left.
With Shesterkin pulled for an extra skater, Lafreniere scored on a one-timer from the right side with 1:02 left to get the Rangers within one. It was his 18th.
After a scoreless first period, the Hurricanes took control with three goals in the second.
The Rangers had three power plays in a 7:09 stretch from late in the first period to early in the second. They managed four shots on goal on the advantages but couldn’t break through against the league’s top penalty-killing unit.
”It’s the game right there,” Brind’Amour said. ”They get one there, everything changes. The crowd gets into it, we’re behind the 8-ball, the game’s totally different. That was a crucial part of the game.”
Trochek then gave the Hurricanes the lead as he beat Shesterkin with a slap shot from the left circle off a pass from Skjei – one of six former Rangers on the Carolina roster – at 7:05 of the middle period. It was his 21st of the season.
Martinook made it 2-0 with 6:12 remaining in the second as he deflected a shot by Derek Stepan, another former Ranger, from the right circle past Shesterkin. It was Martinook’s fifth.
”It got me in the big bicep,” Martinook said of his deflection.
Kreider pulled the Rangers back within one as he put a backhander past Kochetkov with 3:02 left. It tied Adam Graves (1993-94) for the second-most goals in a single season in franchise history, just two behind the record set by Jaromir Jagr in 2005-06.
”It’s a hard thing to reflect on after that game … after a loss like that,” Kreider said.
Teravainen restored Carolina’s two-goal as he skated in the left circle and beat Shesterkin for is 21st with 1:41 to go in the period.
The Hurricanes outshot the Rangers 14-11 in the first period with both goalies making several nice stops.
Kreider was announced as the Rangers’ winner of the 2022 Steven McDonald ”Extra Effort” Award. The award, named for the former NYPD detective shot and injured on the job in 1986, is given annually to a Rangers player selected in fan voting who ”goes above and beyond the call of duty.” McDonald’s widow Patti and son Connor – an NYPD sergeant- were in attendance to present the award.
Kreider’s goal was the 229th of his career, breaking a tie with Bill Cook for 10th place in franchise history. … Aho’s goal gave him 400 career points. … Teravainen got his 100th goal with the Hurricanes. … Carolina F Max Domi played in his 500th career game.
The Rangers were two men down in the third period after announcing forward Artemi Panarin (upper body injury) and Andrew Copp (lower body injury) would not return to the game.
”(They) should be fine,” Gallant said. ”Just being cautious.”
Hurricanes: Host New Jersey on Thursday night to close the regular season.
Rangers: Host Montreal on Wednesday night before wrapping up the regular season Friday against Washington.
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