Hurricanes’ hodgepodge lineup scores early, often in win over Kings

Hurricanes center Jack Drury celebrates his goal against the Kings during Carolina’s 5-1 win Saturday in Raleigh. (Karl B. DeBlaker / AP Photo)

RALEIGH — When the Carolina Hurricanes made a circle at center ice to do their postgame Storm Surge following Saturday’s 5-1 win over the Kings, there were a lot of new faces raising their sticks to the crowd.

“I think we’ve watched it on YouTube and TV enough to get the gist of it,” a smiling Jack Drury said.

With six players in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol and another knocked out with an injury in the first period, Carolina relied on both its veterans and greenhorns to get its second straight win and stay atop of the league’s standings.

One of those “veterans” had arguably his best game with his new team.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi — boasting all 21 years of his guile — scored just 37 seconds into the game to get the Hurricanes moving in the right direction.

Jesper Fast knocked down and controlled the puck along the boards and passed to Brady Skjei in the slot. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick stopped the Skjei shot, but Kotkaniemi — who seemed to join the officials in being the only ones who knew the puck was still loose next to Quick’s pad — swept in the rebound for a 1-0 lead just 37 seconds into the game.

“I felt I had a pretty good angle — I’m probably the only guy who saw the puck there,” said Kotkaniemi, who now has seven goals on the season and also assisted on a goal later in the game for his second straight two-point game. “It was pretty easy to tap that in.”

Also making things easy was the fact the Hurricanes needed less than a minute to add to their lead.

The Kings challenged Kotkaniemi’s goal, arguing that Fast had knocked the puck down with a high stick. But the goal was upheld and Los Angeles was assessed a delay of game penalty.

The Hurricanes’ power play cashed in quickly when Fast redirected a Jaccob Slavin shot to make it 2-0 at 1:36.

“That start was huge,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “You get the goal and then get the power play and then score. I mean, that just does make it a lot easier.”

Andrew Poturalski got the secondary assist on Fast’s goal for his second power play point in as many games since being recalled from the Chicago Wolves. It also started a parade of points for the team’s AHL call-ups.

Josh Leivo got his first point with the Hurricanes with a low-to-high pass to Brett Pesce, who got his shot through a Drury screen and past Quick (28 saves) to give Carolina a 3-0 lead at 2:38 of the second.

Drury — who was initially credited with Pesce’s goal — made sure he got his second in as many NHL games to put the icing on the win with just over five minutes left in the game. The 21-year-old came in alone on Quick and banked a shot in off the far side post and then coasted with his arms spread wide in celebration.

“When everyone’s rolling and we’re playing well, I think everyone builds confidence off of that,” Drury said.

The impact of Carolina’s calvary went beyond the scoresheet.

Veteran Stefan Noesen, playing his second game with the team, created chances of his own and was physical all night, finishing with four hits. He wound up playing 16:02, often taking shifts in top six after Martin Necas was knocked from the game on a penalized late hit by Los Angeles’ Sean Durzi.

“I gotta give Noisey a lot of credit too, coming in,” Brind’Amour said of Noesen. “He’s played real well for us.”

C.J. Smith — second only to teammate Poturalski in AHL scoring — also played his first game with the Hurricanes, logging 9:22.

“I just think guys are working really hard,” Brind’Amour said, “and kudos to all the guys that came in because they all contributed and did a great job.”

Drury agreed.

“All the guys that have come in from Chicago, we’ve molded in nicely and just tried to help the team win,” he said.

The special teams also dominated again. The Carolina power play got a second goal near the game’s midway point when some nifty puck movement got Teuvo Teravainen his seventh goal of the season off a feed from Tony DeAngelo. The penalty kill went 3 for 3, extending its perfect streak to five games.

“That’s always a big part of the game,” Brind’Amour said of special teams. “If you don’t watch a game and you just want to look at the score and see what happened, you look at special teams. And you can see whoever was the plus in that, generally, is the team that wins.”

A big part of that was Carolina’s last line of defense. Frederik Andersen had 32 saves, with Blake Lizotte scoring the only Kings goal at 15:33 of the second. Andersen has now followed up a three-game losing streak in late November with five straight wins and allowed just eight goals during that stretch.

The Hurricanes’ next two games — at home on Sunday vs. Nashville and in Boston on Tuesday — were postponed after the Predators and Bruins were both shut down due to the insurmountable roster losses those two teams have suffered due to COVID-19.

Carolina, meanwhile, has been forced to play on with a cobbled-together lineup — a group that is getting more on-the-job Storm Surge training than anyone expected.

Notes: Skjei had two assists, five shots on goal and was plus-3. … Drury won 6 of 7 faceoffs and has won 12 of 15 in his first two career games. … DeAngelo has points in seven of his last nine games and has points in 16 of 22 games played this season. … Anze Kopitar was held without a shot on goal for just the second time this season.