The Pittsburgh Penguins and visiting Carolina Hurricanes — the two hottest teams in the NHL — won’t have to think back too far to prepare for their meeting Thursday in Pittsburgh.
Sunday, Carolina beat the Penguins 3-2 in a game in Raleigh, N.C., that ended Pittsburgh’s seven-game winning streak. It also extended the Hurricanes’ winning streak to five games.
In the interim, the Penguins got back on the winning side Tuesday with a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers, while Carolina made it six wins in a row by downing New Jersey 4-1.
However, Sunday’s game still lingers for the Penguins. After all, these two teams are combined 15-0-1 in the month of December except for the game against each other.
“We owe them one,” Pittsburgh winger Brock McGinn said. “Their battles are a real tight-checking game. We’re looking forward to that one.”
The first time the Metropolitan Division foes met, Nov. 29, the Hurricanes also won 3-2, that one going overtime in Pittsburgh, ending a Penguins six-game winning streak.
Pittsburgh then launched the winning streak that again was ended by Carolina on Sunday.
This time, it’s the Penguins who have a chance to snuff a Hurricanes streak, a 12-game point streak (10-0-2) that Carolina feels good about.
“It doesn’t really matter when you get those long streaks; you’ll take them,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “You want to bank as many points (as you can).”
To do that, Pittsburgh will have to solve Carolina rookie goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov, 23, who has a 10-game points streak (8-0-2). He beat the Penguins with 23 saves on Sunday and then made 37 stops Tuesday against the Devils.
That 10-game streak ties Kochetkov with Cam Ward for the longest point streak for a goaltender in club history, something he can take over with a win, or at least a regulation tie against Pittsburgh. The NHL record for a point streak by a rookie goaltender is 15 games, set by Detroit’s Jimmy Howard in 2009-10.
“He has done a tremendous job, and we’re going to keep riding him right now,” Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell said of Kochetkov.
Kochetkov was recalled from the American Hockey League in early November when goalie Frederik Anderson got hurt. Kochetkov has surpassed Antti Raanta to become the No. 1, at least while Anderson is out, and even signed a contract extension late last month.
“He looks like he’s been around forever,” Brind’Amour said. “He’s very poised in there. It feels like he belongs, and he’s obviously proven it so far.”
The Penguins went with backup Casey DeSmith Sunday against the Hurricanes, but seem likely to counter Thursday with their No. 1, Tristan Jarry, an established goalie who is living up to his All-Star status from last season, and then some.
Jarry made 21 saves Tuesday — the only goal he gave up came in the first minute when the puck glanced off one of his defensemen — to extend his winning streak to seven starts and his career-long point streak to 13 games (11-0-2), which is tied for fourth-longest in franchise history.
“His game is really sharp right now; it has been for a while,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said of Jarry. “He has a calming influence. … He just reads plays so well. He gets to his spots.”
–Field Level Media