RALEIGH — The Hurricanes entered Thursday’s home game with 15 games remaining on the season, 11 of which were against teams outside of the playoffs.
Both Rod Brind’Amour and his players warned against expecting an easy road despite the seemingly weaker schedule, and the Canadiens learned that Carolina meant what they said.
The Hurricanes dominated for 40 minutes before cruising to a 4-0 win, getting multipoint games from five players and a 32-save shutout from Frederik Andersen in front of 15,289 at PNC Arena.
“It was a very solid effort throughout the lineup,” Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho said. “Obviously Freddie made those saves he needed to make.”
The game started with a dominant shift from the Jordan Staal line and that bled through the rest of the lineup.
“It all starts, in my opinion, with Jordo’s line,” said Hurricanes defenseman Tony DeAngelo, who finished with two assists. “They just hold onto the puck down low and it just starts tiring the other team out. Then the next line comes out and they do it, and then the next line comes out and they do it.”
When the fourth line got on the ice just over three minutes into the game, Jordan Martinook — playing for the first time since being injured March 17 — kept it going.
Martinook charged in on the forecheck following a faceoff win and drew a cross-checking penalty on Montreal’s Laurent Dauphin.
“To me, that’s the value of that kind of player,” Brind’Amour said of Martinook’s boundless energy, “especially this time of year, this week, where you’re just playing it feels like every day. He had been out, so it was nice that he brought that energy to the group. … He was a big part of it.”
Carolina made quick work of the power play, with Aho winning a faceoff back to DeAngelo, who slid the puck across to Teuvo Teravainen for a one-timer that Aho redirected in the high slot for his 31st goal of the season and a 1-0 lead just 3:48 into the game.
“I hope I have a lot of goals in me still,” said Aho, who tied Jeff O’Neill for third all time on the team’s goal-scoring list since relocation to North Carolina with his 176th goal. “Just keep going.”
That proved to be the game-winning goal as the Hurricanes dominated the first two periods, outshooting the Canadiens 42-18 and building a 3-0 lead on even-strength goals by Andrei Svechnikov and Teravainen.
Montreal pushed back in third — due in part to free-wheeling desperation and some complacency by the Hurricanes — by drawing three penalties and outshooting Carolina 14-2.
“It’s kind of human nature,” Brind’Amour said of the lackluster final 20 minutes. “Had a good game, the game’s kind of in hand and you can say the right things, the intentions are there, but you just come off it a little. Then you take three penalties.
“That period wasn’t great, but we’d done enough work to build a game that, really, it wasn’t an issue.”
While the Canadiens found their footing, they couldn’t solve Andersen, who posted his fourth shutout of the year and dropped his goals-against average to within a few thousandths of being under 2.00.
“(We) did a helluva job to kind of keep them from entering the zone for the most part,” Andersen said. “We wanted to play a complete game, and I thought we did that.”
Brind’Amour called the confidence in his goaltenders — Andersen and Antti Raanta — “comforting.”
“You’re going to have your breakdowns, you’re going to have your mistakes … he shuts the door and we can keep moving on,” he said of Andersen.
“You don’t think about anything happening when he’s in the net,” DeAngelo said. “And Raanta’s been fantastic too, but Freddie this year, you’re not worried when they get a chance or anything. It’s just a calming presence on the bench when he’s in the net.”
Svechnikov sealed the win with an empty-net goal with 1:45 remaining, his second goal of the night, 27th of the season and 200th point of his NHL career.
“He probably should have more,” Brind’Amour said. “If you look at how he’s played, and there’s stretches where he’s a pretty good player and no points.”
Brind’Amour did take a lighthearted dig at his emerging star forward.
“He’s getting a lot of empty-netters, so he’s kind of making up for a lot of those chances that we talk about where they don’t go in for him.”
Svechnikov did convert a chance at the end of the first period, using his physicality to double Carolina’s lead to 2-0.
He first hit Montreal defenseman David Savard into the boards, which led to Savard returning the favor. Then the tandem went to the front of the net, where Savard seemed more intent on retaliating than defending.
Carolina defenseman Jaccob Slavin got the puck near the right corner and threw it in front, and Svechnikov tipped it over the left pad of Jake Allen (40 saves) for a 2-0 lead with 12 seconds left in the opening period.
The Hurricanes’ Finnish connection then hooked up again early in the second period, with Aho setting up Teravainen for his 17th goal of the season.
Notes: Slavin finished with two assists, extending his career-high total to 33 on the season and giving him 36 points, matching his 2019-20 season for his career high in that category. … Teravainen now has assists in six straight games.