Pyotr Kochetkov made 31 saves for his third straight win and both Vincet Trocheck and Brady Skjei had multi-point nights.
After the game, head coach Rod Brind’Amour along with Skjei and Jordan Martinook spoke with the media. Here’s what they had to say:
On taking the time to appreciate the accolades of a strong regular season: You probably need to take a minute and just realize that it has been a pretty darn good year. We’ve done what we wanted to do. What’s great is that the guys aren’t really that excited about it. We know that there’s better things that we’re trying to accomplish, but we set out wanting to be the best after 82 games. Now we’re the top of our division, which is great. That’s a huge accomplishment and you’ll enjoy it for a little while, but we’ll be right back at it here tomorrow. We know we’re trying to do bigger and better things.
On the character of the team and they way they’d battled through adversity all season: It’s nothing about me and I’ve said this from day one. When you have a good group that buys in to what we’re trying to accomplish as a team, good things can happen. I think it gives you a pretty good chance and that’s kind of what we’ve done all year. I’m proud of the group because of how they prepare, how they come to work every day and that makes my job really easy.
On Pyotr Kochetkov: It’s unreal. It’s a great story. Hopefully it continues. He looks like nothing is fazing him and he looks like he belongs. Good on him. We hope it continues, but he’s been great.
On finishing the season strong even in a rough patch: Everyone always talks about it. You have to go through some tough times to grow and this year had been pretty easy, breezy for us when you really look at it until this all hit at once. I expected this though. I didn’t think we would just cave because we had all of our goalies out. No. Our guys are a pretty solid group and I think we’re pleasantly surprised with Pyotr just because we had no idea there. Nobody did. It’s been a good story so far for sure.
On if Kochetkov has given him confidence if he had to start him Game 1: That’s a lot to ask, but he come in here, in a pretty big game, and I think he handled himself pretty well. The good news about all of this stuff is that even though you’re forced to throw him in, where there was no chance he’d have been playing if we didn’t have these injuries, and you’re getting to see that if we had to, we’d feel pretty good about it.
On the three straight kills in the second being a vital point in the game: That’s totally the game for me because if they get one there, everything changes. Crowd gets into it and maybe we’re behind the eight ball. Game’s totally different. But it was crucial part of the game and then we got a couple and kind of cruised through until the last five minutes. Obviously a little squirrelly there, but a pretty good effort all the way around.
On the challenges of playing against the Rangers: It’s kind of like if you take a penalty, and you could be playing a great game against them, but then boom, boom. For me it’s that firepower that they can get real quick, especially on the power play. That’s a dangerous weapon they have and I think that was the difference in the game. Not letting that be a factor in the game.
On if he thought that the Rangers would be here at the end of the year: I did. It’s all quality players, but I think the surprise was maybe how well the goalie played. That’s a big part of that team and I think maybe that was more of a surprise because he was still a little unknown and a young guy, but he’s played lights out. That position is so important, especially with a team with so many skilled guys, because it allows them to play their game. If you get behind it all of a sudden changes your game, but if you can just keep rolling and your goalie is making saves, it does a lot for your group.
On what having a franchise best in points and wins in a season means for him: Like I said, you should take a minute — and I tried to say that in there with the guys — because it’s a pretty big accomplishment. But it’s just not been our goal from day one. Even though we had 82 games to try to come first, it’s pretty hard to be too excited about it because nobody is really going to care about this. It’s all about the next phase, but this is an accomplishment. It’s been a long run. Six to seven months of grinding it out and what do we really get out of it? So we should enjoy it for a night.
On if it was a little sweeter clinching the division against his old team: Obviously I look forward to these kinds of games with having been there for a while and knowing all the guys on that team. It was a huge win for us and we’re very pumped up that we won the division.
On winning the division: It feels great. It gives you some confidence knowing that you’re playing well as a team and that you played well throughout the whole entire year. It was obviously a goal of ours going into the season to accomplish it. It means a lot, but we’re really pumped up.
On having a breakout season offensively: I feel like I’ve gotten some good bounces here and there that guys have been scoring on. I think I’ve been getting pucks to the net which is something I worked on. Getting pucks at least through that two layers of defenders. If you get it there, we usually get some chaos in front with our forwards with how hard they go to the net. So, I’ve gotten a few points doing that. I just want to do whatever I can to help the team win and obviously I’ve been lucky enough to get some points on the board as well.
On killing off the three straight penalties in the second period: That was huge. Our PK has been really good all year. We don’t want to rely on it too much with all of those penalties we’re taking, but it’s been one of our strengths all year to kill those off and against a really good power play tonight. It was good.
On Pyor Kochetkov: He was good. Really good. He made some really good saves. He’s got confidence and a little swagger to him that I think you need as a goalie, with the way he’s been playing. Kind of thrown into those games, but it’s been great and he’s done a really good job for us.
On adapting to goalies who have such different styles: Honestly we don’t think about it that much. I’ve been confident if it’s been [Andersen], or [Raanta] or [Kochetkov]. They’ve all been really solid for us and for us d-men, it makes our job easier knowing you have a guy back there that’s going to make a big save.
On being part of the Hurricanes’ culture: I’m just very grateful for the opportunity I’ve been put in. Teammates have been amazing. Playing with Pesce has been huge for me individually. He’s been an unbelievable defensemen — very underrated in the league — and for me to be able to play with him for these last couple of years has been really nice for me and my game.
On his pride in being a part of the franchise’s turnaround: It was three weeks ago that we were getting a little worried. Obviously the last four or five we’ve kind of righted the ship and I’m super proud of everybody in there. When I first came here, to make the playoffs was the pinnacle for that year and now it’s division champs two years in a row. I know last year is last year, but the standard has been set and we’re looking forward to the next chapter here.
On Pyotr Kochetkov: He doesn’t speak a whole bunch of English, but when he does he makes you laugh. You can just tell that the language barrier is there, but you understand him and he understands you. Hockey is such a universal game and when he’s playing like that, we love him. He’s been great so far and as advertised.
On the importance of home ice in the playoffs: Well you’ve heard the building and I’ve said it to many people. I haven’t played in a rink that’s been as loud as PNC Arena. When playoff time rolls around... all year they’re loud, but when playoff time rolls around it gets nuts in there and it definitely energizes you. I can’t wait to see the Caniacs out and tailgating and getting ready for the first round here.
On where his goal went off of on his body: It got me in my big bicep.
On what he’s seen from the Rangers: I think a couple of guys went down tonight, but when they’re healthy, they’ve got four lines that they roll out that are skilled and fast and obviously the goaltending has been pretty great all year. They’ve built a good foundation here and they’re a great team and moving forward they’re doing pretty good here.
On Brind’Amour establishing the playing style of the team: I think he’s set the standard ever since he came in. Since I came here, he’s demanded the way we play and when we come off of it, it’s noticeable. He’s been huge for the team and organization. He leads Hurricanes through every part of them. We know what to expect out of him and he usually knows what to expect out of us.
On how Kochetkov has been funny: It’s just locker room banter. I was sitting next to him a little bit and he’d almost look at me to translate. Obviously I can’t translate, but I try to slow it down and dumb it down a little bit to make it easy English for him. It’s funny watching him interact with everyone.