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Canes close out regular season with commanding win over Devils

The Carolina Hurricanes dominated the New Jersey Devils Thursday night in a 6-3 win, a fitting end to a historic regular season.

New Jersey Devils v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

The Carolina Hurricanes took the ice for the final time in the regular season Thursday night, and they looked completely the part of a 54-win, 116-point division champion.

The Canes beat the New Jersey Devils handily 6-3, as Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored three points in the first period to set the tone early. Along with Kotkaniemi, who had one goal, Ethan Bear, Martin Necas, Teuvo Teravainen, Steven Lorentz and Jordan Martinook found the back of the net for the home team.

In net for the Canes was Antti Raanta, who stopped 27 of 30 shots faced in his return from a brief injury. The Devils started Andrew Hammond who allowed six goals, turning to John Gillies late to finish things off.

With the result Thursday, the Hurricanes’ Raanta and Frederik Andersen wrapped up the Jennings Trophy for the fewest goals against at 202. It’s the first Jennings Trophy in franchise history.

If there was any fear that the Canes had already packed it in for the regular season, those were quelled almost instantly as Carolina scored twice in the first 5:33 Thursday night.

The first came from Bear, who’s point shot took a weird deflection off a New Jersey skater to beat Hammond and give the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead 4:44 into play. Kotkaniemi, playing in his first game in nearly two weeks, got his first of three-points in the period with the secondary assist.

The Canes doubled their advantage just 49 seconds later, as another point shot from a defenseman led to a goal. This time it was Ian Cole who sent the puck towards net, with Necas coming in with a beautiful deflection to get it past Hammond. And again, Kotkaniemi picked up the secondary assist.

Later in the period it was Kotkaniemi’s turn to do the scoring, as Necas made a nice pass following a turnover to set up the Finnish forward in the crease. Kotkaniemi showed some nice composure to stick with the play and tap in his first goal since Feb. 20.

The Devils answered Kotkaniemi’s score to get one back just a minute later, as Fabian Zetterlund laced a wonderful snipe past Raanta to cut things to 3-1.

Not too much of note happened for most of the second period, as things stayed at 3-1 until the final minutes. The Devils rang the post twice, while both teams had a fruitless power play and both goalies made grade-A saves.

Hammond worked some magic to deny Brett Pesce from the slot and then Brady Skjei on the follow. On the other end, Raanta flashed the pad to deny Yegor Sharangovich.

The Canes added a goal to their lead late in the middle frame though, as Teravainen wristed a beauty past Hammond to make it 4-1. Vincent Trocheck won an offensive-zone faceoff back to Teravainen cutting across, and Turbo picked his spot to score the goal.

Seth Jarvis unleashed some nasty stick moves to set up the Hurricanes’ fifth goal early in the third period, undressing a New Jersey skater before finding Lorentz in front of the net. Lorentz scored his eighth goal of the season and first since March 12 to make it 5-1.

Not too long after that, Martinook had a tight-angle redirect on a Skjei shot in to make it a 6-1 game. The Devils added two more later in the third as Carolina did some resting of the workhorses, with Jesper Bratt and Jimmy Vesey the goal scorers.

And with that, the regular season came to an end with the Canes setting franchise records in both wins and points.

The Hurricanes will be back in PNC Arena to open up the playoffs against either the Boston Bruins or Tampa Bay Lightning, which will be decided Friday night.