Antti Raanta made 24 saves in his first action in nearly a month as the Carolina Hurricanes beat the New Jersey Devils 2-1 on Saturday night.
Jordan Martinook and Andrei Svechnikov scored in the first period to help the Hurricanes win their third straight and sixth in the last seven.
Raanta hadn’t played since Jan. 1 due to an upper body injury. This was his first full game since Dec. 30, with three other goalies making starts for Carolina since then.
“It has been a lot of hard work,” Raanta said of rehabbing. “Obviously, it’s nice to get rewarded.”
His teammates appreciated the efforts.
“I said to him after the game, ‘That’s the Rants I’ve seen steal lots of games,’ ” said Martinook, who was a teammate with the goalie when they played for the Arizona Coyotes. “That was kind of vintage Rants right there. … He has had some injuries and he’s getting back to it.”
Jesper Boqvist scored for the Devils, who’ve lost seven of their last eight games. The lone victory in that stretch came last Saturday against Carolina. Jon Gillies stopped 21 shots for New Jersey.
Raanta, who’s in his first season with the Hurricanes, said he geared up all week anticipating he might draw the assignment against the Devils.
“You start to learn how to play behind this team,” Raanta said. “You’re earning the trust. Obviously, making those saves feels good.”
Raanta made a clutch stop on Nathan Bastian’s short-handed breakaway in the final seconds of the second period.
“Key saves at real big times,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “We weren’t at our best. Their team was really kind of coming at us for a little while.”
The Devils posted only three shots on goal in the third period.
“That’s how you have to play with the lead,” Brind’Amour said. “Wasn’t great the first couple periods. But give the guys a lot of credit because when the game was on the line, they turned it up.”
By then, the frustration might have been building for the Devils.
“I thought we did better than hanging in there,” New Jersey coach Lindy Ruff said. “We weren’t able to capitalize on some of those key offensive opportunities. … We played probably as well as we have defensively. Carolina is a tough team to outskate and I thought for the fist 40 minutes we outskated them. We didn’t outscore them.”
Five of New Jersey’s last seven defeats have come by one goal.
“It’s not fun to lose these tight games,” Boqvist said.
Martinook, who has been out for most of the past eight weeks, scored for the first time since the season opener. His goal came on a back-handed shot at 8:02 of the first after Seth Jarvis delivered a pass from behind the net.
Martinook hadn’t played in the past four games. He made it back from an injury and then entered the COVID-19 protocol.
“One thing after another for him,” Brind’Amour said. “It’s nice to see him contribute.”
Svechnikov produced his goal with 5:38 left in the period by taking the puck to the crease, where Gillies wasn’t able to gain control and it ended up in the net.
Boqvist made it 2-1 with 3:34 remaining in the opening period with his first goal of the season.
The Hurricanes also scored the first two goals last Saturday at New Jersey. The Devils responded to win that game 7-4.
The Hurricanes have completed half of their 82-game schedule with the best record in franchise history at this stage of a season. Their 30-9-2 record gives them 62 points.
The previous best 41-game mark was 58 points, accomplished in the 2005-06 season and last season. Carolina won the Stanley Cup in 2006.
Hurricanes forward Teuvo Teravainen, fourth on the team with 32 points, was scratched for the second time in four games. Brind’Amour said he has a lingering ailment. He missed a game for the first time this season a week earlier at New Jersey because of an injury.
Defenseman Dougie Hamilton remained out of New Jersey’s lineup because of a broken jaw suffered in the first game of the month. He played the past three seasons with Carolina and he received a hearty ovation during a first-period introduction.
HOMAGE TO THE WHALERS
The Hurricanes wore Hartford Whalers jerseys on a night dedicated to recognizing the franchise’s past. It marked the sixth time since the relocation to Raleigh that the Hurricanes wore Whalers jerseys. They’re 4-0-2 in those games.
“I sent a picture of my jersey to one of my friends (earlier in the week),” Raanta said of the hoopla surrounding the Whalers theme. “I think the whole crowd loved it.”
Devils: At Toronto on Monday night.
Hurricanes: Host San Jose on Sunday night.