Svechnikov hat trick puts disappointing Rangers on the brink


Andrei Svechnikov snaps home his third goal for a hat trick to highlight a Hurricanes 4-1 win over the Rangers in Game Two of the Play In Series. The Rangers have their backs to the wall in what might’ve been the swan song for Henrik Lundqvist. AP Photo credit Andre Ringuette of Freestyle via Getty Images

It’s not looking good for the Rangers. They followed up the Game One loss by melting down in a disappointing 4-1 defeat to the superior Hurricanes in a sleep inducing Game Two. Now, they find themselves down 0-2 in the best-of-five Qualifying Series. They’ll have to win three in a row starting Tuesday night to save their season.

This was very underwhelming. It didn’t help matters that they badly missed key two-way forward Jesper Fast. His grit, determination and hustle which work so well during the postseason, was lacking from the 18 Blueshirt skaters. Julien Gauthier hardly played and got less ice time than Steven Fogarty. Why? Ask the coach.

Henrik Lundqvist couldn’t duplicate his Game One form. Though it’s preposterous to pin Monday’s loss and current predicament on him, he gave up a bad early goal to the game’s first star Andrei Svechnikov. The superb second-year Russian forward was brilliant in becoming the first Carolina Hurricane player to record a hat trick in the playoffs. After a good first game where he set up a Sebastian Aho power play goal, he dominated the Rangers.

After Svechnikov took a Aho pass and beat Lundqvist short side, the Rangers responded by playing their best period of the series. Artemi Panarin was more noticeable at five-on-five and the team spent more time in the Carolina end.

However, the only time they beat Petr Mrazek was on the power play. It was a well executed play started by Tony DeAngelo, who passed down low for Ryan Strome. He then was able to dish across for an open Panarin, who had all kinds of time to finish his first of the series.

On the scoring play, Chris Kreider did yeoman work in front by screening Mrazek. He drew the attention of former teammate Brady Skjei. That is what allowed Strome to find Panarin for the tying goal in the opening period. Neither Skjei nor Mrazek were able to recover in time as the Bread Man finished.

Not long after, Mrazek made a huge save to thwart Mika Zibanejad on a mini break in. The Canes starting goalie was able to calmly glove away the dangerous chance from Zibanejad, who scored 41 goals in the regular season. He was checked from behind just enough to prevent either a better shot or possible backhand deke. That play turned out to be big.

In a period the Rangers played well in, the game remained tied at one headed to the locker room. Unfortunately, they were unable to follow it up in a dizzying second that was extremely frustrating.

Brendan Smith took a needless hi-sticking minor to hand the Canes a power play. Having connected once in seven opportunities in Game One, it only took them three total seconds to make Smith regret his lack of discipline. Off a clean face-off win from Aho, Sami Vatanen passed the puck across to a uncovered Svechnikov, whose one-timer in the right circle beat Lundqvist high stick side for a 2-1 Canes lead at 1:11 of the second period.

While a contingent of fans tried to blame Lundqvist, who once again was in between net due to the mystery injury Igor Shesterkin has, the truth is it was all due to the defensive draw they lost. You can’t allow that kind of set play and expect to tell about it. The Rangers remain one of the NHL’s worst face-off teams. It got exposed during a crucial moment to hand back the momentum to the Hurricanes.

Pinning it on the goalie is as narrow-minded as the biased fans who got all over DeAngelo’s case because he didn’t have a particularly strong game. He and partner Marc Staal were caught on for two Carolina goals. The first tally was Svechnikov surprising Lundqvist in the first.

The second came 71 seconds later when the Filip Chytil line got totally outworked by the Canes fourth line. It was a play created from Brock McGinn behind the net that allowed Morgan Geekie to set up a wide open Jordan Martinook for an easy put away to make it 3-1 at 2:22.

It definitely hurt the Rangers’ psyche. Afterwards, David Quinn told reporters via Zoom that the bench let down. They weren’t locked in. Those two goals 1:11 apart really affected them. At this time of year, that cannot happen. They didn’t have the same jump and were too easy to play against. Very disappointing for a group that prides itself on its character and resiliency.

They completely went away in a sleepless third. With the exception of DeAngelo taking out some frustration in a scrum with Martinook that resulted in a misconduct to go with a roughing double minor, there wasn’t much to talk about.

That followed Svechnikov completing the hat trick on a well executed two-on-one from Aho. Covering at the left point for a pinching Ryan Lindgren, Strome turned over the puck at the Carolina blueline. That led directly to the odd man rush with Aho flying down the ice before making a perfect saucer pass to a training Svechnikov for a beautiful snipe to conclude the scoring with 5:58 left in regulation. A nice way to get his third goal of the game unless you were a Ranger.

Kreider also took a roughing minor late which was just for bookkeeping. That kind of day. That kind of game. They stunk. Now, the Canes can go for the sweep in a more normal time frame tonight.

One wonders if that was the last game for Lundqvist as a New York Ranger. He wound up with 30 saves on 34 shots. I’m sure he wishes it could’ve gone better. It isn’t his fault the team has only shown up for two periods of six. If it is it for Lundqvist, he had a wonderful career. One of the best Rangers ever.

Some have speculated that even if Shesterkin can’t go, Quinn will make the switch to Alex Georgiev for Game Three. If he goes get the nod for his first postseason start, it will be in an elimination game. Not exactly the best scenario for the likable backup. Such is how this abbreviated best-of-five Preliminary Round is. No time for complaining.

With Fogarty barely playing over seven minutes and Gauthier only a shade over six, one wonders if you’ll see the Blueshirt debut of Vitali Kravtsov. What do they have to lose? Brendan Lemieux is also available after serving his two game suspension. I’m sure he’ll get in. Maybe have Kravtsov play for Gauthier or Greg McKegg. But stick him on the third line.

We’ll see what Quinn decides. Hopefully, they don’t go out in a whimper. Show some fight.

Battle of Hudson 3 Stars

3rd 🌟 Sami Vatanen, Hurricanes (2 assists, 3 blocked shots, +2 in 25 shifts-19:28)

2nd 🌟 Sebastian Aho, Hurricanes (3 assists including 2 primary, 1-4-5 in 2 games)

1st 🌟 Andrei Svechnikov, Hurricanes (1st career hat trick, 3 goals on 3 shots, 6 hits, +2 in 15:43)

Stat of Game: Giveaways NYR 16 (Zibanejad 4) CAR 10 (Jake Gardiner 2)

SOG NYR 24 CAR 34

Attempts NYR 52 CAR 55

Face-offs NYR 26 (Zibanejad 11-and-10) CAR 30 (J. Staal 11-and-8)

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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