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Recap: Raanta puts on a show as Canes top Devils

It certainly wasn’t a banner performance from the 18 skaters, but Antti Raanta more than made up for it with a stellar showing of his own.

Goaltender Antti Raanta blocks a shot from the New Jersey Devils, Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022 in PNC Arena. The Canes won on Whalers Night in regulation, 2-1.
Kaydee Gawlik

Frederik Andersen reminded everyone on Thursday in Ottawa why he will participate in next weekend’s All-Star Game in Vegas. Saturday night against the New Jersey Devils, Antti Raanta made sure it was known that while Andersen gets the accolades, he is more than capable of stealing games on his own.

Raanta held the Hurricanes in despite a shaky performance in front of him for the first 40 minutes, and two early goals held up as the Hurricanes won their sixth game in their last seven, avenging an embarrassing loss from a week ago with a 2-1 win over the Devils on Whalers Night at PNC Arena.

Carolina took the lead against the run of play eight minutes in. After the Devils spent plenty of time in front of Raanta with the Hurricanes a step slow to nearly every loose puck, a face-off win at the other end opened the scoring. Seth Jarvis stepped in to win the draw after Sebastian Aho was booted from the circle, and a high-to-low pass from Brady Skjei to Jarvis behind the net prompted the rookie to shake off a defender and center to Jordan Martinook. The alternate captain, promoted to the top line in the absence of Teuvo Teravainen, fired a spinaround backhand past Jon Gillies to give the Canes the lead.

Six minutes later, not long after Tony DeAngelo rang the post, the red-hot Andrei Svechnikov continued his torrid January run with a coast-to-coast beauty. Picking the puck up deep inside his own zone, Svechnikov drove the net with reckless abandon, willing the puck past Gillies to double the Hurricanes’ lead.

But the Canes held that lead in spite of spending plenty of time defending their own zone. Old friend Janne Kuokkanen turned on the jets to create separation and, after skating behind Raanta, initiated a tic-tac-toe passing play that ended with Jesper Boqvist beating Raanta through the five hole. The Devils certainly deserved a goal on the merits, and Carolina could consider themselves lucky to be up one after the first.

The Canes’ malaise continued into the second, but just like when Frederik Andersen saved his teammates’ backsides in Ottawa on Thursday, Raanta stole the show in the second. He twice stopped breakaway chances for the Devils, first against Boqvist after Ethan Bear bobbled the puck at the blue line three minutes in, then with under two minutes to go shorthanded against Nathan Bastian, who scored twice the last time these teams faced each other.

Carolina was fortunate that Raanta, starting his first game in nearly a month, was on his game, because the rest of the team was most assuredly not. Jaccob Slavin, being interviewed by Tripp Tracy at the second intermission, almost looked uneasy to be up by a goal after two lackadaisical periods.

Rod Brind’Amour, clearly, wasn’t thrilled about it either, instituting wholesale changes to the forward lines in the third period despite holding the lead. That at least woke the team up and reminded them that there was a goal at the other end opposite Raanta, but some tough luck prevented the Hurricanes from retaking a two-goal lead, including Sebastian Aho missing high over an open corner and P.K. Subban sweeping a Brett Pesce shot off the goal line after it trickled through Gillies.

(And speaking of tough luck, Jordan Staal shot wide on a nearly open net just after a fruitless Carolina power play with four minutes left. As you were.)

Despite playing with no goaltender for the final two and a half minutes, the Devils only managed a single shot with the empty net, one of just three Carolina surrendered in the final frame. The Hurricanes did everything but score into the vacated goal, taking shot after shot that were either wide or blocked. Vincent Trocheck punctuated the win with a shot block as time expired, giving the Canes their third win in a row and the first of the three to not require overtime.

The Hurricanes will wrap up their pre-All Star schedule with a matchup Sunday afternoon against the San Jose Sharks.