This one was tough. In the first game of the second round series, the Rangers dropped Game One to the Hurricanes 2-1 in overtime. Ian Cole scored the winner at 3:12 to help the Canes complete the comeback.
They lead the series one game to none. Carolina prevailed due to Antti Raanta. The former Ranger made 27 saves on 28 shots to earn the game’s Second Star as selected by the media. He stopped 22 of 23 shots in the first two periods.
Without that, we’re talking about a Rangers’ win instead. They certainly played well enough in a tough atmosphere before 18,705 screaming fans at PNC Arena.
Truth be told, they did a lot of things well. It was mostly Blueshirts during the first two periods. They had the better of the play out-shooting the Canes 23-14 and out-chancing them.
However, only Filip Chytil was able to beat Raanta. His second goal of the postseason came 7:07 into the game. It came off a good rush from Alexis Lafreniere, who along with Chytil were their best players. He made a bullet pass across for a sweet Chytil finish to cash in off a Tony DeAngelo turnover.
Their line mate Kaapo Kakko was good too. He looked more confident with the puck, making plays in the offensive zone. He nearly had Chytil for a 2-0 lead. But Raanta made the biggest save of the game when he got across and made a great left pad save.
Kaako also could’ve shot on that chance. However, it would be two missed opportunities in the third period that he’ll really be kicking himself. On one, he was led in by a good Lafreniere pass. But he lost his balance as he made his move on Raanta.
The second was even crazier. On a broken play, a loose puck came right to him with a wide open net staring at him. But Kakko missed the great scoring chance wide right through the crease. That would come back to haunt the Rangers.
Eventually, after applying all kinds of pressure in a much more lopsided third period, the Hurricanes were able to get it tied when Sebastian Aho put in his own rebound after a great save by Igor Shesterkin with only 2:23 left.
On the play, Brady Skjei made a good play to get the puck up for Teuvo Teravainen. He then made a pass for Seth Jarvis, who found an open Aho cutting in behind for a point blank chance. His initial shot was denied by Shesterkin. But he flipped in the rebound to force overtime.
The guilty Blueshirts were K’Andre Miller, Jacob Trouba, Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin. Both Zibanejad and Panarin were spectators while Miller was off to the side leaving Trouba to defend Aho. He got dusted by the leading Canes scorer.
For as much as they struggled with a relentless Hurricanes attack in a conservative third where Rod Brind’Amour shook up his top two lines, the Rangers nearly survived the onslaught.
At one point, the Canes led in shots 7-0 with only Zibanejad having an attempt that missed wide 38 seconds into the period. But the Rangers settled down and played better defensive hockey in the last half of the third.
In fact, they got four straight shots before the final push from the Hurricanes. That included the two Kakko sequences where he couldn’t score on two glorious chances. If he buries one, the Rangers are likely up in the series.
However, that doesn’t explain the lackluster third period. Neither does it excuse Zibanejad and Chris Kreider for their disappearing acts. The heroes of the first round combined for three total shots and four attempts. Neither got going.
Panarin was more noticeable. But didn’t factor in offensively. He finished with two shots in four attempts. Andrew Copp and Ryan Strome were also kept quiet by the Canes. They had three combined shots. Hardly enough to be successful.
Of the top six, only Frank Vatrano looked dangerous registering three shots and five attempts. The top two lines must be much better if they’re to gain a split on Friday night in Game Two.
The third line can’t be their most consistent to win this series. The trio of Lafreniere, Chytil and Kakko had superb games. They were effective offensively at creating chances while playing solid defensive hockey.
Unfortunately, both Kakko and Lafreniere were caught on for Cole’s overtime winner. A fluke play that had a Brendan Smith shot go wide and kick out to Cole, who followed up his own shot which went in off Ryan Lindgren past Shesterkin with 16:48 left in OT.
That’s how some of these close fought games get decided. Sometimes, all it takes is a bounce. Luck was on Carolina’s side.
Before the game started, Mollie Walker reported a hint of positive news on Sammy Blais. The injured forward who’s been out since P.K. Subban tripped him to cause a torn ACL, skated in a non-contact jersey at practice. Barclay Goodrow didn’t skate.
As expected, Gallant stuck with the same lineup that got it done against the Penguins. Here’s how they lined up:
Initially for the Hurricanes, Brind’Amour went with the same winning formula from Game Seven over the Bruins.
In an interesting way to begin the second round series, both coaches went with their checking lines. Following some play by Tyler Motte, Ryan Reaves and Kevin Rooney in the Carolina end, the Staal line had the puck down low against the Zibanejad line. Niederreiter high-sticked Fox for the game’s first power play.
Before they could do anything, Vincent Trocheck had Jordan Staal open for a shorthanded bid. But the Hurricanes captain fired wide. Once on the puck in the Carolina zone, Strome took one of his specials. He took down Jaccob Slavin to even it up just 27 seconds into the five-on-four.
The two teams skated four aside before the Canes got an abbreviated 12-second power play. A Zibanejad clear ended it.
Afterwards, Motte used his speed to create an opportunity for Kevin Rooney. But it didn’t connect. Finally, the Canes transition created an open shot for Jarvis. But Ryan Lindgren broke it up with a block.
Initially, the Rangers had the first four shots. They were much sharper. For some reason, the Canes seemed to be a step behind. They weren’t able to generate much that threatened Shesterkin. It was perplexing.
Part of that was the Rangers’ structure. They were getting back in position and managing the puck well. A big improvement from the first round.
That attention to detail led to the first goal of the series. Tony DeAngelo forced the issue to cause a turnover. That allowed Lafreniere to skate in on a two-on-one and slide a pass across for a Chytil one-timer for his first goal of the second round with 12:53 remaining.
Amazingly, it took the Hurricanes nearly nine minutes to get their first shot. DeAngelo got it on Shesterkin, who had no problem with his long shot. He must’ve felt like he was on vacation.
Strome then had a strong shift. After making a good clear to help the Justin Braun, Braden Schneider pair get out versus the Aho line, he took the puck aggressively to the net, forcing Raanta into a tough save.
At the 8:45 mark of the period, Lindgren took his fifth shift. It was the final one of the period. He went back to the locker room for repairs. He played 3:01 in the first. Fortunately, he did return.
Suddenly down a defenseman, Gallant worked in a five-man rotation. He used Miller a lot with Fox while Braun spent most shifts with Trouba.
Late in the period, Lafreniere went wide with a shot. Then Kakko recovered the puck and drove towards the net into the slot. Rather than shoot, he passed across for Chytil, whose one-timer in tight was denied by a great Raanta pad save.
That close to a two-goal lead. It was the biggest save of the game. That’s how badly the Canes needed Raanta to deliver in that spot. They were badly outplayed.
Following that incredible stop, Jarvis got behind the defense for the Canes’ best chance. Miller was able to deny him with good positioning. Note that for later.
After holding a 12-8 edge in shots with a 1-0 lead, the Rangers got good news. Lindgren returned for the second period. That meant a regular rotation on the blue line.
In the period of the long change, there were some dicey moments. Early on, Fox was out for a 1:32 shift with Lindgren. He took a good Andrei Svechnikov hit.
Eventually, some strong work from Lafreniere got the puck out of the zone. He then skated into the Canes’ zone for a counter and tested Raanta with a low wrist shot from the circle. His game is more instinctive. He’s playing like a top pick.
Then, things opened up. First, a good shift from the Zibanejad line against two-thirds of the Staal line with Brady Skjei and Brett Pesce nearly resulted in a second goal. Vatrano did some strong work down low and passed for a Zibanejad shot that just missed.
On a counter, Staal was able to carry the puck into the Rangers’ zone and get a good shot on Shesterkin. He had help from Kreider, who made a good play along the wall to get out.
Following a Raanta save on Strome, the Canes had their best sustained pressure of the game. They had Trouba pinned in his end for an Ironman 3:12 shift. While Miller got off, he couldn’t. A fresh Braun helped along with the Zibanejad lime after Lafreniere was on for nearly two minutes. When he got to the bench, he looked gassed.
Then came the first great Kakko
tease opportunity. Able to forecheck, he was stopped by Raanta to keep the game at 1-0. As the period moved along without many stoppages, Jarvis got behind the defense. But a hustling Miller came back to deny him and delivered a clean check to knock him off the book. It was a great defensive play.
After an outstanding play from Miller, Lafreniere again used his speed to get a dangerous scoring chance. With 5:37 left, he had a shot go off the far goalpost. That close to a two-goal lead.
At that point, shots were 22-13 overall. Late in the second, Miller broke up a potential tying goal on a backdoor feed. Shesterkin also shrugged off a high Jarvis shot with a blocker save.
Panarin nearly caught the Hurricanes napping in the closing seconds. He was able to test Raanta with a high riser that he made a big save on. After two periods, the Rangers still led by one. They outshot the Hurricanes 11-6 and led 23-14 overall.
But in the pivotal third period, the Hurricanes woke up. Brind’Amour made some good in game adjustments by breaking up his top two lines. He reunited Teravainen with Aho and Jarvis. Svechnikov was moved onto the second line with Vincent Trocheck and Marty Necas.
It really worked. Sparked by the line changes, the Canes came at warp speed. Before their big push that saw them get the first seven shots of the period, Zibanejad had a look at a wide open shot off a turnover. But he sent it wide. It wasn’t his night.
Right afterwards, here came a Hurricane. On just a great pass by Aho across the ice, Teravainen somehow didn’t finish. It looked like a lay-up. But Shesterkin must’ve kept it out.
At that point, I knew what was in store. A Hurricanes storm surge. They applied tons of forecheck pressure. With the crowd revved up, a great shift from Trocheck, Svechnikov and Necas nearly had it tied. But Shesterkin didn’t buckle.
He then denied DeAngelo on a tough low shot with a player in front. It looked like the Rangers wouldn’t even muster a shot. They looked like they were skating a man short.
There weren’t many whistles. No penalties were called after the early two. It was all played at five-on-five during the second and third. The better team at even strength started to to flex their muscles.
On some more pressure from the Canes, DeAngelo moved into a shooting position at the point. But Kreider was in the right spot to make a good defensive read to break it up and force him out. You could see DeAngelo visibly frustrated as he went to the bench during a rare stoppage.
Then came the play that could’ve been. On just a smart read by Lafreniere, he chipped the puck off the wall to lead Kakko for a one-on-one with Raanta. In on the goalie, he tried to cut it too fine and fell down on his forehand deke attempt. There was no call.
But JD said that Kakko lost his balance. At what point does he start burying these kind of chances? He played well. But the Rangers need more offense from him.
Right after that miss, Nino Niederreiter was sent in behind Schneider. His laser rang off the crossbar. That close to a tie game.
Even more hair-raising was Kakko blowing a gimme. He had a puck bounce off a Canes’ defenseman right to him with a wide open net. Somehow, he missed. That really proved costly.
On another strong shift by the Chytil line, Kakko was stopped by Raanta with 4:07 left. Shots were 7-2.
That’s when a desperate Canes made their final push. After he hit the goalpost with a shot, Aho was sent back in by the combination of Teravainen and Jarvis. Able to get behind both Zibanejad and Trouba, he had his first shot stopped. But potted the rebound past Shesterkin to tie it with 2:33 remaining.
It was a nightmare for the Rangers. They fell asleep on the tying goal. Can anyone explain what Panarin was doing out there when they were nursing a one-goal lead? He was loafing. It wasn’t a good look.
It never is when your best players are out trying to protect a 1-0 lead. Why was Panarin out with Zibanejad and Copp? Why not a defensive forward like Motte or Rooney? A screw-up for sure by the bench.
In the last minute of regulation, Gallant put out his best line. Indeed, the Chytil line was trusted to get something done. A strong cycle nearly led to the winner. But Fox sent his point shot wide.
After Jarvis got a hit on Zibanejad, Kreider returned the favor before the buzzer. That caused some commotion. But the refs and linesmen did a good job breaking it up and sending each team off the ice.
So, they went to overtime. The second straight one for the Rangers and third of the playoffs. Before the start, ESPN put up a stat that they’ve lost eight of their last nine Game One’s where it’s gone to OT. I shook my head.
Maybe I knew how it would end. It’s so hard to recover from giving up a late goal the way they did. Especially in enemy territory. I wasn’t nervous for it. I also didn’t expect it to last long.
It didn’t take long for the Hurricanes to prove they were the aggressor. Following a good offensive shift by the Trocheck line that saw the center get off a backhand that Shesterkin stopped, the Blueshirts ran into more trouble.
With Rooney, Lafreniere and Kakko caught on with Lindgren and Trouba due to the long change, they got hemmed in by the Hurricanes’ fourth line. Sure enough, their depth shined when it mattered most.
After Trouba was unable to clear the zone, it was just a matter of time. Kotkaniemi worked the puck up for a Smith shot that took a wide carom back to Cole. After his initial shot was blocked, he was able to fire it through where it deflected off Lindgren and underneath Shesterkin for the overtime winner at 3:12.
Had Lindgren not been in the path, Shesterkin makes the save. Maybe the Rangers escape. Who knows what might’ve happened. Instead, they skated off the ice with a disgusted Lafreniere slamming his stick. He was next to Cole on the shot. It wasn’t on him. He played a great game.
There isn’t a whole lot to add. This was one they could’ve won. But a bad third period really hurt. Play like they did in the first two periods and it’s a win. They never got the key insurance marker to put the Hurricanes away.
Credit the Canes for responding. That’s why they’re a very good team. Brind’Amour made smart moves which got his team going. It isn’t possible without Raanta, who was my first star over Cole. He actually stopped 22 of 23 in the first two periods.
You never know who the hero will be in the playoffs. Who had Josh Manson winning it for the Avalanche the other night 3-2 over the Blues? Did anyone take Cole on the #bucciovertimechallenge? I took Lafreniere for our side and Svechnikov for the Caniacs.
In a more wild and wacky Game One, the Flames recovered from blowing a 6-2 lead to beat the Oilers 9-6. The Battle Of Alberta isn’t going to disappoint. Connor McDavid willed his team back with four points (1-3-4). But Rasmus Andersson and Matthew Tkachuk scored to help Calgary pull away.
In the other series, the Lightning won 4-1 over the Panthers by getting three power play goals minus Brayden Point. Corey Perry, Nikita Kucherov and Ross Colton tallied for the two-time defending champs. Game Two is later tonight.
The Avalanche look to go up two-zip on the Blues, who got great goaltending from Jordan Binnington to push it to overtime despite being severely outplayed. We’ll see what he does for an encore.
I’m most interested to see how the Panthers respond to being down 1-0 to the Lightning. Especially with the next two in Tampa where they have a better home ice advantage. That should be fun.
For more observations on the postseason, please follow me on Twitter on our official account at BattleOfHudson. Or send me an email at email@example.com.