The Carolina Hurricanes took sole possession of the top spot in the Metropolitan Division thanks to a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins Sunday afternoon at PPG Paints Arena.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Jordan Staal, Jesper Fast and Sebastian Aho all registered a goal in the win and Antti Raanta turned aside 34 shots to earn career win number 100.
After the game, head coach Rod Brind’Amour as well as Jesper Fast, Jordan Staal and Jesperi Kotkaniemi spoke to the media on the win. Here’s what they had to say:
On his team’s performance: They were great. The first 30 minutes was really good and then we had the one bad shift and of course they scored. Then they kind of got some life and then they took off. They go their game going, but I thought we were solid. Our D played phenomenal, logging all those minutes that they had to. I give them a lot of credit.
On any update on Brendan Smith: No. Not yet.
On Antti Raanta getting the start in Pittsburgh: We’ve got a lot of games coming up and there’s not a lot of rest once we get past tomorrow. I think there’s a three day break and then that’s it for the rest of the year. We’re playing every other day. We’re going to need them both and it really just lines up for Freddie to get another day of rest here before his start. That’s about all. Very important to have both guys.
On Jesperi Kotkaniemi getting more comfortable: That was a big goal today obviously. I’ve asked him to step into these other roles when needed and he’s been great. I think he’s just going to get better and better as he gets more comfortable with how we want to play. Obviously he has a lot of talent so that’s starting to come out.
On the league’s top two penalty kills facing off against one another: Our penalty kill was good. The one was a 6-on-4, that we didn’t do quite right. You don’t want to give that lane up and you’re not going to save that one-timer. It is what it is on that, but I thought overall we did a nice job. We only had two power plays all game, I think, but they were both good and obviously it comes up huge with the game winning goal. Special teams and goaltending. It always seems to come down to those two things.
On if there was anything more to the opening period faceoff goals: I can’t be telling you what was going there, but every team has stuff they do off the faceoff.
On Andrei Svechnikov attempting the between the legs shot: These guys can do this stuff. This is the game now. These guys have so much talent that that’s a normal play. Bring it over and draw the goalie to him. That’s the play. It’s not the old days where none of us could do that stuff. All of these guys can do this stuff. I’m certainly not going to tell him not to, when I never could do any of that stuff.
On the team’s performance: I thought we played really strong. We came out pretty strong in the first 30 minutes and I thought we were the better team. Then they got two goals there that shook the momentum a little bit, but in the third period we got a quick goal and maybe we sat back too much, but we battled hard and got the two points.
On the quick goals to start periods: They’re huge. Tried to make a play there in the second period and it worked out perfectly. I think we did that one more time before so happy it worked out. A little broken play on the second goal, but it was a really great pass by Nino to open it up there.
On suppressing the Penguins in the first 30 minutes: In the first 30 minutes, I thought we controlled all the game. We were on them and we had a lot of zone time and all that stuff. Really happy with the way we played, but the game changed quick. They got two quick goals and the game kind of turned a little bit, but we know what kind of team we are and in the third period we came out strong and we battled hard.
On if this game was a good tone setter for a potential playoff matchup down the road: I mean, it’s hard to say. We want to play the same way every game and we know what kind of team they are. They’re a good team, so if we play them in the playoffs, we’re facing a good team. We just try to improve our game and play our game.
On Jesperi Kotkaniemi breaking the ice: The first goal is always important. Of course we played good too, so it gave us a little momentum and we got the second one as well. But yeah, the first one is always important.
On the penalty killing: Special teams is always important. I feel we’ve done a really good job this season and we've just got to make the right plays out there. If we could stay out of the box that’d be even better, but we’ve been good in those situations all year. We have confidence.
On the team’s performance: Great first. Obviously we held control of most of the game and gave them one little sniff, and obviously that team can score goals and that got them right back into it. That third period was a good battle and I thought our special teams was big. Power play goal was huge and gave us a little bit of breathing room. Raanta was big with the finish at the end there.
On Antti Raanta’s performance: It was great to see. Obviously Raanta, I don’t think he’s gotten into his groove this year and it’s nice to seem him play really well against a really good team. I can see the boys feeling confident in both goalies. We have two great goalies that can steal games and Raanta did a great job tonight.
On his assessment of the Penguins: They’re very similar. A team that can bite you really quick and a team that plays with speed. A good power play and they’ve got a great squad. We’re going to see some battles, I think we have a fair amount against each other in the next few weeks in the division. It’s a lot of fun. Two good teams going at it and obviously getting the first one is always good.
On how the teams would match up in a potential playoff series: I can’t see why not. Like I said, we took control of the game in the first and then they got to their game and really took it to us for a bit there and we were on our heels. It’s going to hopefully not be one of those back-and-forth games, but it’s obviously two good teams that are going to make pushes. Glad we got on top of it tonight.
On scoring two twice in the opening seconds of a period: It was obviously fortunate. We had some good bounces tonight. A couple of good bounces. We’ll take it. I did a great job of losing that draw on the one. Skjei made a great read on the quick up and our line did a good job on that one and the other one was a little faceoff play that worked out in our favor.
On his collision with Evgeni Malkin: Yeah... that was my bad. I saw him late and he was kind of coming one way and I was going the other way. He’s a big, heavy boy and I’m glad he got up fine.
On closing out games: Obviously at 6-on-5, we’ve given up a couple in these last few. We’ve got to find ways to minimize their chances They’re good teams with their best players on the ice and they’re going to find ways, but it’s not a good feeling seeing that at the end. I thought tonight, they had a few chances that went our way. It was nice to see our bounces and Raanta obviously took it away at the end.
On taking some fortunate puck luck after his earlier struggles: I’ll take it. I was telling the boys that my left leg was due. Been telling the boys to just go to the net and good things will happen. All those things led to a bounce for me. I’ve been getting quite a few chances off the break and I’m starting to play some better hockey offensively I feel. Those are one of those good bounces that you take and run with and it was nice to see it go in.
On if he’s been doing anything different in the last little stretch: No, not really. I’m just trying to do the same thing every night and work as hard as I can. However much ice time, just try to use it as best as I can. It’s been fun to get a couple of goals in the last few games. Always brings the confidence up and it feels good.
On if he and the other Finns on the team got a boost from Finland winning gold at the Olympics: Yeah, of course. It was a great thing for the whole country. First gold medal ever and it’s just huge. It of course gives a boost for all the Finnish guys around the league, but it was just great to see. Great for Finnish hockey.
On Antti Raanta: He’s great. Even when he’s not playing, he’s kind of the dad for all of us. He’s taking care of us and sometimes we have a nice brunch at his place. He just watches what we do and gives us little tips every day.
On Seth Jarvis: I’m not surprised at all. He’s a great player and an even better person. He’s just a great guy to be around. He works really hard and you can see that on the ice. He’s one of the most skilled guys on our team and he’s just able to make those plays every night. He’s a big part of our team and a huge part of the future.