Pyotr Kochetkov won the Calder Cup with Chicago’s AHL team in June. On Monday at United Center, he showed the fans of the city’s NHL club that his performance last season at the other end of the Kennedy Expressway was no fluke at all.
Kochetkov turned in his second straight solid performance, recording his first NHL shutout and extending his career-opening winning streak to five games in a masterful 3-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
Unlike in his previous start this season, Kochetkov didn’t have much run support this time. Jordan Staal and Jordan Martinook continued their torrid run, with Staal scoring in his third straight game, and Andrei Svechnikov added the insurance goal in the second period.
The Canes turned the rest over to Kochetkov, and he rewarded their trust with a 27-save shutout that was significantly tougher than he made it look.
It’s a safe assumption that the Hurricanes’ offensive prowess for much more than a couple of weeks this season will not hinge on the performance of the two Jordans on the third line. However, while the Hurricanes work to tinker with the mix in the top six to get things going in the absence of Teuvo Teravainen, Messrs. Staal and Martinook are showing that key contributions can often come from unexpected sources.
What made the night notable for the Canes’ third liners was that their goals didn’t come from where you would typically expect. Martinook opened the scoring at 9:45 of the first period on a tip of a Brent Burns shot at the top of the slot, with both his stick and that of Chicago native Jack Drury in the vicinity.
Staal’s goal was even more unexpected, a bullet from the top of the near circle with 3:11 left in the first off another Burns setup. Jesper Fast provided the screen in front of old friend Petr Mrazek, moving out of the way just in time for the puck to find the net over Mrazek’s glove.
Meanwhile, Kochetkov continually got stronger as the game got on, pulling out another poke check save on former teammate Max Domi in the second period and keeping a solid position on shot after Blackhawks shot. Perhaps his finest saves came from in tight on Chicago captain Jonathan Toews in the first period, keeping the Hurricanes from needing to play from behind.
Stefan Noesen nearly made it 3-0 just before the first intermission with a shot that went clean off the crossbar, and it took a while but Andrei Svechnikov did give the Hurricanes a three-goal with five minutes left in the second period. Fast didn’t get an assist on Staal’s goal despite creating the condition for the goal, but he did on Svechnikov’s team-leading 12th, tipping a suicide pass from Caleb Jones behind the Chicago net right to the winger who converted a tap-in.
Martin Necas dinged the post in the third on a shorthanded breakaway, which was the closest the Hurricanes came to beating Mrazek in the final frame while they played a suffocating prevent defense at the other end. Kochetkov had one more sterling save up his sleeve, making a toe save to shut down a Boris Katchouk backhand bid halfway through the period. That was all the Hurricanes needed, squeezing the life out of the game for the final ten minutes.
Paul Stastny grabbed the puck to make sure it found its way to Kochetkov at the end of the game, packing it away as the Hurricanes lined up to congratulate their still-rookie goaltender. The Canes return back to Raleigh with a split of the two-game road trip in hand, and a rematch with the Colorado Avalanche on tap for Thursday night at PNC Arena.