In what amounted to a bittersweet night, the Rangers lost to the Hurricanes 4-2 at The Garden. The Canes used a strong third period to decide the outcome. With eight games remaining, they lead the Metropolitan Division by four points.
There is one head to head meeting left. It’s in two weeks on April 26. That will also be played at MSG. For now, the Rangers remain in second place with 100 points. They are still five clear of the Penguins, who lost to the Islanders in a shootout. Third place is up for grabs with the Capitals pulling within three of the Pens with two more games left.
The home defeat to Carolina put a damper on a history making night. Trailing by two late in regulation, Chris Kreider was able to steer in a rebound with 1:38 left to score his 50th goal of the season.
In doing so, Kreider joins Vic Hadfield, Adam Graves and Jaromir Jagr as the fourth New York Ranger of the 50-Goal Club. Unfortunately, it didn’t come in a win. But it’s a significant achievement for a focused player who’s the embodiment of this team. Congrats to Kreider!
After he cut the deficit to 3-2, the Rangers pulled Igor Shesterkin for a second time. Hoping for a similar result, it didn’t come. Instead, Sebastian Aho scored an empty netter at 19:54 for the final margin.
Despite the outcome, it was a good game. In a tight checking first period, the Rangers had the better of the play. They were able to generate better scoring chances off the forecheck. Something that wasn’t the case in the previous two meetings in Raleigh.
In a marquee goalie match-up that pitted Freddie Andersen against Igor Shesterkin, both were on from the start. Andersen had to make a few more difficult stops. Shesterkin countered by holding up his end of the bargain.
On a night the Rangers gave a nice video tribute to Jesper Fast after the first stoppage, they also recognized Brady Skjei, Brendan Smith and Tony DeAngelo. There were some boos for DeAngelo. I doubt he cared. Carolina has become Rangers South with Antti Raanta and Derek Stepan also joining those four.
At least they didn’t make a big deal out of it. Outside of Fast, who was here longer, you didn’t hear too much banter from Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti. Though they did mention that teammates liked DeAngelo. It’s all in the past now.
If there was an area that hurt, it was the power play. Given two opportunities to take the lead, the Rangers did nothing on it. The Hurricanes boast the top ranked penalty kill. They showed why.
By sitting back and standing up at their blue line, it made it hard for the Rangers’ top unit to get anything going. There was no setup time. Instead, there were mistakes leading to easy clears. For the game, they went 0-for-4.
Back at even strength, they had the better of the play. But Andersen stopped Mika Zibanejad. He would also deny late bids from Frank Vatrano and Jacob Trouba to keep it scoreless.
The Rangers got off to a great start in the second period. On a rush that began with a good takeaway from K’Andre Miller, he got the puck to Vatrano who was flying. Vatrano then moved the puck to Zibanejad. With Kreider driving the net front, that opened up a lane for Zibanejad to feed a cutting Miller for his seventh goal at 63 seconds.
A well executed play by everyone involved. Miller has scored five of his seven goals since January. He’s been much more active in the second half. That’s led to good results where the blossoming 22-year old defenseman is jumping up on the rush. He’s also a plus-20 since the calendar year changed.
Following his goal, Vatrano held the stick of Vincent Trocheck. But the penalty kill did a good job. They didn’t give the Canes much. When it was over, it felt like five-on-five play would decide it. I was thinking by a 2-1 score. If only that came true.
Even though they didn’t capitalize on the man-advantage, the Hurricanes picked it up. They were tighter defensively. Unlike a first period that saw the Rangers outshoot the Canes 14-8, the second was much closer. Carolina came on to hold a 9-7 edge.
On a good outlet, Panarin carried the puck and patiently held it before skating around the Carolina net. With Andersen over committed, it looked like he could’ve had a wraparound. But DeAngelo recovered just enough to take that option away. Instead, Panarin centered the puck for Ryan Strome who missed with players in front.
That was a key sequence. Had they been able to score there, that makes it 2-0. It probably winds up being a different game. That’s hockey.
Following that, Smith roughed Barclay Goodrow to hand the Rangers another power play. That wasn’t the only instance they came together. Later in the period, Goodrow collided with Smith’s stick. No call was made. It was accidental.
The way the power play performed, it probably wouldn’t have mattered. The third man-disadvantage felt like that scene from Groundhog Day where Phil slams his alarm clock with the annoying, “I Got You Babe,” playing.
My reaction to it was simple. Next time, decline it. You would’ve thought there were five Canes and four Blueshirts. That’s how little they generated. With the exception of Vatrano, who got a tricky backhand on Andersen that he padded away, it was mind numbing.
With the Canes beginning to tilt the ice with their aggressive forecheck, it finally paid off. Following a Shesterkin save on Seth Jarvis, Andrei Svechnikov got to a loose rebound and banked the puck in off Shesterkin’s skate to tie the score with 6:22 left.
A fluke goal. For sure. But also a smart play by a good player. Svechnikov saw the opening and went for the bank shot and got rewarded with his 29th. It was a crappy way to lose a shutout. That’s how it goes.
There wasn’t a ton of action. At least in terms of shots. You had DeAngelo test Shesterkin’s glove with a high riser that he snapped out of mid-air. Alexis Lafreniere let go of a long wrist shot that Andersen handled. Lafreniere finished with three shots. He was more involved than Kaapo Kakko, who again didn’t have a single shot in his second game back.
With Goodrow on the team’s mind after he was cut by an inadvertent stick, Kevin Rooney challenged Smith in front of the benches. Nothing happened. It was a good teammate stepping up. Given Smith’s injury history, he shouldn’t be going anyway.
Before the period concluded, Andersen made one last save on Adam Fox. After two, nothing had been decided. It was a hard fought playoff style game.
For whatever reason, the Rangers weren’t ready at the start of the third. It was the Hurricanes who came out and quickly gained control. Following a Shesterkin save on Nino Niederreiter, Skjei stepped up in the neutral zone to hit Goodrow.
With the forwards late changing, Skjei and Sebastian Aho got the puck up for Jarvis. He broke in and beat Shesterkin by going to the backhand top shelf at 1:02. It happened that fast. Both Miller and Trouba were on. But they had no support. Zibanejad was too late.
Before you knew it, the Canes made it two in a row when Jordan Staal whipped a wrist shot past Shesterkin for a 3-1 lead with 13:18 remaining. That came off the work of Fast and Skjei. Both had good nights.
On what was a great individual effort, Miller went around two Hurricanes to get in on Andersen who denied him. Strome just missed a follow-up. Miller drew a slashing call on DeAngelo.
Unlike the first three power plays, the Rangers weren’t on it very long. Following a good Andersen stop on a low Zibanejad shot from the left circle, Strome got nabbed for one of those hooking minors. Nauseating because the refs overlooked worse infractions and called that.
As the second half of the period moved on, it didn’t look like Carolina would let the Rangers back in it. Most of their shots were to the outside. Andersen handled those. The Canes continued to play aggressively up by two. Their defensemen stepped up making it difficult to sustain any attack.
Following an icing, Shesterkin was lifted for an extra attacker. On a face-off play where the puck came back to Fox, his shot was deflected by both Strome and Andrew Copp off Andersen. That allowed Kreider to get position and score number 50 at 18:22. A fitting way for him to get it. Nobody is better in front.
There were loud cheers when Rangers PA announcer Joe Tolleson announced the goal. All for a dedicated player who’s worked his tail off to have this special season. Kreider is one of our own. It’s a great highlight of what I hope will be a big postseason.
As much as they tried after finally getting Shesterkin off the ice again, the Rangers couldn’t get much late. Although Kreider did have a rush and took one of those shots that you hoped would elude Andersen. Always looking for that storybook ending.
It wasn’t to be. Andersen blockered it away. Out came Teuvo Teravainen with Svechnikov, who moved the puck over to Aho for the empty that iced it with six seconds left.
If you’re like me, you have to believe the Rangers will see the Hurricanes again. I’m not talking in two weeks either. These are the best two teams in the division. While you never can predict what will happen, here’s hoping we get a second round date with the Canes.
Up next are the Flyers. A team they lost to last time out. I’m not going to rehash anything else. That’s a game they must bounce back in. It doesn’t matter if it’s a back-to-back. We’ll see if Alex Georgiev gets the call.
Three Stars 🌟 🤩 ✨️
3rd 🌟 Chris Kreider NYR goal number 50, becomes 4th Ranger to reach 50 in a season
2nd 🌟 Andrei Svechnikov Canes goal (29th) plus assist, 4 SOG, +2 in 14:31
1st 🌟 Seth Jarvis Canes goal (14) plus 🍎, +1 in 13:40