MORRISVILLE, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Hurricanes have never measured Jordan Martinook’s value solely in goals or assists. Yet these days, he is certainly making it easy to count those up, too.
Martinook, a grinding force in Carolina’s aggressive forecheck, is suddenly finding the net and tallying points at a stunning pace against the New Jersey Devils. Consider it a pleasant surprise for Carolina as it navigates injuries to its forward group and enters Thursday’s Game 5 with a chance to clinch a trip to the Eastern Conference final on home ice.
“I just think being able to contribute and have a 3-1 lead is the biggest part,” Martinook said Wednesday. “If I had no points like in the first series and we were winning, I’d be in the exact same position. Obviously it’s cool to contribute and I’m happy to be able to help the team win and just hopefully keep it going. It’s been fun.”
It’s easy to see why, too.
The 30-year-old alternate captain started the year by being placed on waivers for salary-cap purposes, then tallied just 34 points in 82 regular-season games. He had a scoreless but effective showing in the six-game first-round series against the New York Islanders.
But suddenly, he has three goals and six assists in four games against the Devils, becoming the first player in franchise history with four straight multi-point games in a single postseason. That includes three straight games with a goal, the last coming during a three-point night in Tuesday’s 6-1 win at New Jersey for the 3-1 series lead.
And yes, even Martinook is a bit surprised by the numbers.
“I don’t think i’ve ever had a run like this before in my time in the NHL, let alone the playoffs,” Martinook said. “Confidence is a good — a great thing. When you can feel it a little bit, it’s definitely nice. I’m just going to try to keep going with the way it’s been going.”
It’s certainly been a boost for Carolina, which lost trade-acquisition Max Pacioretty to a re-torn Achilles injury just a few games into his debut and then top-line forward Andrei Svechnikov to a season-ending knee injury in March. Fellow top-liner Teuvo Teravainen suffered a broken hand during Game 2 of the Islanders series.
It has all forced Carolina to lean on depth throughout the lineup to generate offense throughout its lines, and why Martinook’s points surge has been so vital to go with a motor that keeps him constantly in the action.
Consider a sequence from Game 2 as an example. Early in the second period, Martinook skated in on a possession chase to tangle up former teammate Dougie Hamilton and fellow Devils defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler near the boards. That helped jar the puck loose to skitter over to Jesperi Kotkaniemi for a near-post putaway and a 2-0 lead in a four-goal second period that blew open a 6-1 win.
“He’s playing hard and he’s leading us out there,” Carolina defenseman Jalen Chatfield said. “You see a guy playing like that, you want to give it even harder.”
Martinook has more goals in this series than he had in his previous playoff history (two goals in 41 games) and almost as many points (11 previously).
“It’s the nature of the game, we always look at guys who score and put up points and they’re the guys that get all the talk,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said after the Game 4 win. “And yet these other guys that do all the work sometimes get kind of forgotten.
“I don’t think his game is changing at all. People that watch him all the time, it’s just the puck’s going in right now.”
New Jersey Devils (52-22-8, second in the Metropolitan Division) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (52-21-9, first in the Metropolitan Division)
Raleigh, North Carolina; Thursday, 7 p.m. EDT
FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK NHL LINE: Hurricanes -122, Devils +102; over/under is 5.5
NHL PLAYOFFS SECOND ROUND: Hurricanes lead series 3-1
BOTTOM LINE: The Carolina Hurricanes host the New Jersey Devils in the second round of the NHL Playoffs with a 3-1 lead in the series. The teams meet Tuesday for the 10th time this season. The Hurricanes won the previous matchup 6-1. Martin Necas scored two goals in the win.
Carolina is 52-21-9 overall and 26-9-1 against the Metropolitan Division. The Hurricanes have allowed 210 goals while scoring 262 for a +52 scoring differential.
New Jersey has a 23-12-2 record in Metropolitan Division play and a 52-22-8 record overall. The Devils rank fourth in league play with 289 total goals (averaging 3.5 per game).
TOP PERFORMERS: Andrei Svechnikov has scored 23 goals with 32 assists for the Hurricanes. Sebastian Aho has five goals and five assists over the last 10 games.
Nico Hischier has 31 goals and 49 assists for the Devils. Jack Hughes has five goals and four assists over the past 10 games.
LAST 10 GAMES: Hurricanes: 7-3-0, averaging 3.7 goals, 5.6 assists, 3.8 penalties and 10.3 penalty minutes while giving up 2.5 goals per game.
Devils: 5-5-0, averaging 2.7 goals, 4.6 assists, five penalties and 15.7 penalty minutes while giving up 3.2 goals per game.
INJURIES: Hurricanes: Ondrej Kase: out (concussion), Jake Gardiner: out (hip/back), Max Pacioretty: out (achilles), Teuvo Teravainen: out (hand), Antti Raanta: day to day (illness), Andrei Svechnikov: out for season (knee).
Devils: Ryan Graves: day to day (upper body), Jonathan Bernier: out (hip).