Evgeny Kuznetsov and the Carolina Hurricanes were extremely close to the Stanley Cup Final last year. Now, they hope to raise Lord Stanley's Cup in 2024 for the second time in franchise history. Their 3-1 win over the New York Islanders in Game 1 on Saturday evening helped the team get off on the right foot.

A major factor in this win was veteran forward Evgeny Kuznetsov. The Stanley Cup-winning forward scored a goal and added an assist on the winning goal on Saturday. It's one game, but it's a promising sign that Kuznetsov can reach another gear during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“I mean, he's a proven winner,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said of his performance, via NHL.com. “… He’s done it in the playoffs and he’s got a Stanley Cup ring to prove it. Tonight, again, he was obviously good. He's a veteran and there’s certainly no panic in his game in this type of environment. That’s, I think, what makes him special.”

Hurricanes score major Game 1 win

Carolina Hurricanes center Evgeny Kuznetsov (92) is congratulated by his teammates after his goal against the New York Islanders during the first period in game one of the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena.
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Evgeny Kuznetsov and the Hurricanes played a tight game against the Islanders in Game 1. Carolina's opening salvo came on the power play as their veteran NHL Trade Deadline acquisition didn't miss his opportunity. The lead did not last too long, though. Kyle MacLean scored for the Islanders to draw the game level.

The game remained tight in the second period. Both teams had their chances, especially the Islanders, to take the lead. And yet, neither team could pull ahead in the middle frame. Carolina was able to break through in the third period, though, and didn't look back.

Veteran forward Stefan Noesen scored around four minutes into the third. The Islanders applied pressure again after that goal, and nearly tied it on a Kyle Palmieri wraparound. However, Martin Necas took advantage of New York pulling the goal to seal the important Game 1 victory.

The Hurricanes now hold a 1-0 series lead over the Islanders. They can take a 2-0 series lead on Monday in front of their home fans. Carolina is hoping for their second consecutive series victory over New York after eliminating the Isles in 2023.

Evgeny Kuznetsov could be an X-Factor

The Hurricanes have Stanley Cup ambitions in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs. They certainly have the talent to go all the way. However, adding proven postseason performers such as Evgeny Kuznetsov could give them another level they didn't previously have. And his teammates are excited to have the Stanley Cup champion in the fold.

It hasn't been completely smooth sailing for Kuznetsov. He began his Hurricanes tenure on the team's second line. Unfortunately, he had issues keeping up with the fast and high-tempo system employed by Rod Brind'Amour. The veteran forward began this year's playoff run on the fourth line.

Kuznetsov made the best of the situation in Game 1. And those around him are happy to see this from him. “He's a big-time, big-game player,” defenseman Brady Skjei said, via NHL.com. “He's proven that in playoffs in the past and he was he was huge for us tonight. Obviously, getting that goal early was huge.”

“He's one of the most skilled, talented players that I've ever seen or played with. So hopefully he can keep going. He's been a huge, huge part of our team here since he's been here and we're excited to have him,” the Carolina rearguard continued on Saturday evening.

The Hurricanes have some playoff demons to exercise this year. Evgeny Kuznetsov has experience doing that in the past. And he could play a crucial role in helping Carolina do the same in 2024. It'll certainly be interesting to see how the veteran will perform through the rest of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.