Hurricanes get a quick boost from Evgeny Kuznetsov addition to start NHL playoffs

Sun, Apr 21, 2024
NHL News (AP)

Hurricanes get a quick boost from Evgeny Kuznetsov addition to start NHL playoffs

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Evgeny Kuznetsov wasted no time making a postseason impact for the Carolina Hurricanes. It's a promising sign for what could be ahead in the NHL playoffs.

The trade-deadline acquisition bolstered a deep Carolina team trying to take the final step in a multi-year run as a Stanley Cup contender. Yet as the Hurricanes look for a 2-0 lead in their first-round series against the New York Islanders on Monday, what was viewed at the time as a low-risk move has already offered the first postseason payoff with Kuznetsov's talent and experience as a Cup winner in Washington.

"He's a proven winner," coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "He's done it in the playoffs and he's got a Stanley Cup ring to prove it. ... He's a veteran guy, there's certainly no panic in his game. In this type of environment, that's, I think, what makes him special."

Game 2 of that series comes Monday night, part of a schedule that includes the start of two Western Conference playoff series.

Kuznetsov led the Capitals with 32 points (12 goals) in the 2018 run to the title and had a decade-long stint as one of the team's core players. But he had a tumultuous end to his tenure, including being put on waivers in March and going into the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program before the Hurricanes took a shot on him.

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"Of course it was a long, tough season for me and a lot of things went wrong and stuff like that," Kuznetsov said. "For me it was a great opportunity to start fresh in the playoffs, first game."

Kuznetsov centered the fourth line in Saturday's 3-1 win against the Islanders, but came up big early by squeezing the puck into the top left corner above Semyon Varlamov's right shoulder on the power play.

Kuznetsov - who marked the moment with his bird-like, arm-flapping celebration - became the second player in franchise history to score a goal in the opening 95 seconds of his first playoff game, joining Matt Cullen in 2006. He went on to assist on Stefan Noesen's winner early in the third for a two-point night.

The Islanders did plenty well enough to win the game, including dominating the second period and blocking shots to minimize the stress on Varlamov while also finishing with a nine-shot advantage. But they also came up empty on a couple of key opportunities against Frederik Andersen, who battled down one post-rebound finish attempt by Noah Dobson while down in the crease. Kyle Palmieri's reach past an extended Andersen went wide of the open net.

"This is a team that plays well defensively, so there might not be tic-tac-toe kind of goals," Islanders coach Patrick Roy said Sunday. "It might be more like, 'Hey, we need to bring the puck to the net.' ... These are the type of goals that we might have to have."

LEAFS at BRUINS, Bruins lead 1-0, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)

After a stellar performance from Jeremy Swayman in Game 1, Bruins coach Jim Montgomery has to decide whether to keep alternating him with 2023 Vezina Trophy winner Linus Ullmark, as the team did all season.

"It's going to be hard to go away from Sway. He played a terrific game," Montgomery said after the 5-1 win on Saturday night. "If we decide to go with Ullmark, we're comfortable with it, and our team's comfortable with it."

For the Leafs, the big question is whether No. 2 scorer William Nylander will be available after missing his first game in more than two seasons. He missed Game 1 with an undisclosed injury.

"He's obviously a great player and a big part of our team," Toronto center Auston Matthews said. "We've been in situations where we've had key players out throughout the season. Just about other guys getting opportunity - more opportunity - and stepping up and making the most of it."


STARS, Game 1, 9:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Reigning Cup champion Vegas claimed the Western Conference's second wild-card spot to earn a familiar opponent in Dallas, which was second in the league behind the New York Rangers with 113 points.

The Golden Knights beat the Stars in a six-game series in the Western final on the way to the title.

The Stars won 17 of their last 21 games and set a franchise-record with a league-best eight 20-goal scorers, though the Knights won all three regular-season meetings.

KINGS at OILERS, Game 1, 10 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

Edmonton and Los Angeles are meeting in the first round for third straight season, with the Oilers taking a seven-game series in 2022 and a six-game series in 2023.

The Oilers have won eight of 12 meetings through the last three regular seasons.

"I think we owe them," Kings forward Quinton Byfield said. "They're going to be a tough out for sure, but they're a team that we really want to beat."


AP Sports Writers Jimmy Golen in Boston, Stephen Hawkins in Dallas and Joe Reedy in Los Angeles contributed to this report.


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AARON BEARD Beard covers sports in North Carolina for The Associated Press with an emphasis on college basketball. His coverage includes ACC sports and the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes. twitter mailto "
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