There will be a Game Seven. It’ll take place on Memorial Day in Raleigh. The never say die Rangers forced the deciding seventh game by delivering a clutch 5-2 win in Game Six over the Hurricanes at MSG.
The true character again came through. For the fourth time this postseason, the resilient Blueshirts avoided elimination. They did it by getting a quick start thanks to goals from Tyler Motte and Mika Zibanejad.
Filip Chytil was the star of the night. He scored twice and was the best skater on either side. His goal on a two-on-one chased Antti Raanta for the first time in the series. He would later add a critical second tally on a great backhand past reliever Pyotr Kochetkov that restored a three-goal lead.
Not to be outdone was Igor Shesterkin. With his team in another do or die scenario at The Garden, all he did was make 37 saves on 39 shots including some big ones in the first period when it mattered. He also made NHL history by becoming only the fifth goalie to ever record two assists in a playoff game.
The Rangers also got an emotional lift from the surprising return of Barclay Goodrow. After blocking a shot in Game One against the Penguins, the battle tested Stanley Cup winner was back in the lineup despite suffering a broken ankle 25 days ago.
It was incredible how well he played. He replaced Kevin Rooney centering the checking line and adding valuable penalty killing. Goodrow also won seven of fourteen face-offs. He provided exactly the kind of energy and experience they needed.
In a sharp contrast from the mindless Game Five, Saturday was more wide open. That caused more chaos and a frenetic pace early. It led to some prime scoring chances for the Hurricanes, who had more jump than in Game Four.
That allowed Shesterkin to get into the game early. He made a few gigantic saves to keep the Canes off the scoreboard. None were bigger than the breakaway he stoned Sebastian Aho on. That save along with one on a Teuvo Teravainen rebound were huge momentum swings. Motte eventually came down and beat a shaky Raanta through the wickets for the game’s first goal.
Before that goal by Motte, shots favored the Canes 7-2. Things changed following Motte’s second of the series. The Rangers would get the next six shots to turn it around. That included Zibanejad fooling Raanta by shooting from a bad angle on a rush to score for the fourth consecutive game.
The clutch stops from Shesterkin and the two goals Raanta gave up really set the tone. They would lead throughout and ride the hot goaltending of Igor to a three-goal victory to force a deciding Game Seven. That’ll take place at 8 PM on Memorial Day.
It’ll be compelling theater for ESPN. Even if some fans on both sides of the series don’t care for Sean McDonough. It’s a national broadcast. I don’t mind. Ray Ferraro is pretty good on color commentary while being between the benches. Despite what fans think, there is no bias.
In terms of the Rangers playing another Game Seven, they’re 7-1 over their last eight. The Hurricanes have never blown a three games to two lead. They’re a perfect 9-0 and have a great record in seventh games. Something has to give.
Hopefully, luck will be on the Rangers’ side. They have yet to win at PNC Arena. Carolina came back to take Game One in crushing fashion. They then shutout the Rangers in Game Two. Those were close. Game Five was not. It’s important for the players in the locker room to believe they can win. Approach it the right way. Play their best game. That’s what it’s going to take to advance.
When early reports had Goodrow taking warm-ups, that was a huge surprise. But when it was confirmed that Rooney wasnt on the ice, everyone knew Goodrow was back. It’s remarkable that he returned from a serious injury in less than a month.
Here were the lines for both sides:
Before the game even began, the “Ig-or, Ig-or, Ig-or,” chants were up from the crowd. They understood the importance of this game. It’s either win or go home. He definitely wasn’t ready to make summer reservations. Neither were his teammates.
At the start, Gerard Gallant had Goodrow between Motte and Ryan Reaves with K’Andre Miller and Jacob Trouba for the opening draw. Rod Brind’Amour countered with his big checking line anchored by Jordan Staal with Nino Niederreiter and Jesper Fast. Jaccob Slavin and Tony DeAngelo were on defense.
Following another great national anthem from John Brancy, who should become the permanent singer for the home games, Shesterkin turned away an early Staal bid on the opening shift.
After a good Justin Braun hit on Vincent Trocheck, a good cycle from the second line that included a more visible Artemi Panarin created a shot from Andrew Copp that Raanta fought off. Slavin batted the rebound away. That was a sign of nerves.
The Canes were very aggressive. They came out hitting and were able to carry the play. It led to Shesterkin making a couple of early stops. He would get tested shortly.
After Goodrow got a shot on Raanta, Aho got behind Ryan Lindgren for a breakaway. He made his move going to a forehand deke. But a calm Shesterkin slid over to make the big right pad save to cheers. He then turned away Teravainen’s backhand.
With the building in a frenzy from the early Shesterkin heroics, Motte took a loose puck, skated into the Carolina zone and used Skjei as a screen to sneak one through Raanta at 7:22. His shot went off Raanta’s pads and in for the lead.
That really got the fans going. It was obvious to anyone that Raanta was shaky. Even though Motte shot between Skjei’s legs, it was a bad goal. It wouldn’t be the only softy from Raanta.
Getting a boost from the goal, the Rangers carried the next few minutes. In fact, Copp nearly doubled up the lead. But his shot just missed. He would also get another shot on that Raanta handled.
Following a stoppage, the second line continued to pressure. Ryan Strome was denied in close by Raanta. On a close call, Adam Fox had some room on the short side with Raanta off his near post. But he just missed wide. He shook his head.
On a draw between Chytil and Trocheck, Alexis Lafreniere was high-sticked by Brendan Smith. That put the Rangers on the power play.
Following a face-off win and clear by the Canes, Shesterkin handed the puck to Fox. He then moved it up for Zibanejad. He then did the rest. Flying up ice, he gained the Canes’ zone and skated past the right circle. Able to catch Raanta not set, Zibanejad surprised him by shooting to go five-hole for a power play goal at 9:51 that made it 2-0.
That was even worse. If you want to give Raanta the benefit of the doubt on Motte’s goal due to Skjei partially screening him, this one was brutal. Zibanejad got an early Memorial Day gift for his seventh of the postseason.
A Miller turnover behind his net resulted in Trouba taking down Andrei Svechnikov for a tripping minor witu 7:12 remaining. The first Hurricanes power play had some great looks. But they couldn’t beat Shesterkin.
The best scoring chance came when Teravainen let go of a high riser that Shesterkin reached up to get his glove on it to push it wide. He would also deny Aho and then make a big glove save on DeAngelo, who looked skyward in disbelief. Those three saves were huge.
Buoyed by a good power play, the Canes continued to ramp up the pressure. But Shesterkin robbed Max Domi and then denied the pesky Jordan Martinook twice to keep them behind by two.
To be perfectly honest, if it weren’t for Igor, there’s no way they escape the first period leading by two. He was the biggest difference in this game. While Raanta struggled for the first time in the series, Shesterkin was a brick wall. He stopped all 15 Hurricanes’ shots in a busy first period.
Raanta did make a couple of key stops on Trouba late in the period to keep the deficit at two. Shots favored the Canes 15-12. They led in face-offs 15-6. The Rangers had too many giveaways (9) that fueled the Carolina attack. They cleaned it up over the next two periods.
In the second period, the reunited third line created two great chances off rushes. On the first one, Lafreniere had Chytil on a two-on-one. But he missed wide. But before you knew it, a pass from Fox trapped a pinching Brady Skjei and Jesperi Kotkaniemi to create another two-on-one.
This time, Chytil whipped a wrist shot high short side past the glove of Raanta inside the post for a 3-0 lead at 3:24. That was all for him. He allowed three goals on 13 shots in 23:24.
Brind’Amour had seen enough. He inserted highly thought Russian newcomer Pyotr Kochetkov. He played well in limited action against Boston. He also beat the Rangers in the final week to help the Canes earn the home ice they’ll have for Monday’s big game.
The move worked. Less than two minutes later, Seth Jarvis and Aho were able to combine to get the puck up for a Skjei shot that beat Shesterkin high glove with traffic at 5:05. It was back to 3-1.
However, Chytil took a Lafreniere feed and then bounced off a Smith check in the corner. He then was able to get off a deceptive backhand that beat Kochetkov high inside the goalpost for his second of the period. It answered the Skjei tally 1:42 later.
Filthy. Chytil has been having a good series. He finally got the results. Well deserved. Somewhat noteworthy, Shesterkin got his second assist of the game to make some playoff history. He started the play with the outlet for Lafreniere. He did it all literally.
On another good chance, Ryan Lindgren actually took the puck to the net where Kochetkov stopped him. With the Blueshirts searching for the rebound, there was a scrum. Just your usual playoff battle. Nothing over the top.
As fans chanted, “Tony [DeAngelo] sucks,” Jarvis had a great chance in front, but Shesterkin denied him to keep it 4-1 with 9:31 left. More often than not, he turned away the Canes. It definitely wore on them.
On a very active shift by the fourth line, Reaves did his best work when he caught Martinook with a clean hit. The best of the game from him.
After Panarin set up a Copp shot that hit the post, the Hurricanes came back to score on the opposite end. This time, Skjei took a Marty Necas feed and got a tricky shot through that hopped off Shesterkin for Trocheck, who was able to get a bounce off Lindgren for his second goal of the series.
That cut it to 4-2 with still 7:13 remaining in the period. Making matters worse, Chris Kreider took an undisciplined penalty by hooking Jarvis just nine seconds later to put Carolina on a crucial power play.
This was a huge part of the game. To their credit, the Rangers got it done on the penalty kill. They only allowed two long shots from DeAngelo and Trocheck that Shesterkin easily handled. Both Fox and Trouba had key blocks that helped them get out of trouble.
With less than five minutes left, Kreider had a good chance to increase the lead. But he sent a wrist shot wide. He’s struggled to finish in this round. Something tells me they’re gonna need him to deliver tomorrow night.
Chytil had a chance at the hat trick. But his low backhand was turned aside by Kochetkov. He really was impressive. So was Lafreniere, who continues to finish checks while making plays on the forecheck. His overall game has really improved.
On an extended shift by the Hurricanes, they created a couple of opportunities. But Shesterkin made stops on Slavin and Jarvis point blank to keep the score 4-2.
Noticing that Braun, Braden Schneider and Kaapo Kakko were out a long time, an overly aggressive Shesterkin came out of his net and knocked down Jarvis. It was an interference minor penalty with 2:18 left in the second.
It was another big part of the game. It gave the Canes a second straight chance on the power play to pull within one. However, the penalty kill was superb. The pressure up top forced DeAngelo into a giveaway and easy clear to cheers. His frustration would soon boil over.
At the start of the third period, the Hurricanes began to come. But after two shots that Shesterkin ate up, it would be a face-off that really finished the game off.
Following Zibanejad getting chased, Kreider stepped in to take a draw against Aho. After losing it, he took an accidental high-stick from Slavin on a loose puck that was in mid-air. After they called it a double minor, they reviewed it to make sure.
Slavin protested that it was a follow through. But it wasn’t due to where the puck was. With Kreider cut on the play, the Rangers went on a four-minute man-advantage. It looked like the five-on-four would fail. The top unit turned over the puck which allowed the Canes to send it down the ice.
Over a minute later, a lazy Panarin hook on Aho made it four-on-four. Before you could turn around, Ian Cole took an interference minor on Copp to put the Rangers back on a the power play.
After an abbreviated four-on-three, Panarin returned to make it a five-on-three. Instead of messing around, he took a Kreider pass and whipped a snapshot past the glove of Kochetkov inside the far post for a 5-2 lead with 12:17 left. It was the first goal of the series for Panarin. His first since the Game Seven overtime heroics last round.
Playing a stronger period up by three, the Rangers didn’t allow many quality chances. Trocheck got his own rebound in front which Shesterkin easily gloved. But he wasn’t beating him there.
Goodrow got into a battle with Trocheck taking him off the ice for two minutes. That’s who he is. An antagonizing player who gets underneath the skin of opponents. Both served roughing minors.
On a delayed call on Miller for tripping up Jesperi Kotkaniemi, DeAngelo finally lost his cool. After the Rangers touched up to stop play, he foolishly flipped a shot into the Rangers’ net. That led to chaos with players in his face. He earned two for unsportsmanlike conduct to negate a power play.
What that showed me is DeAngelo was frustrated. The Rangers have really done a good job neutralizing him. They’ve crowded him at the point to take away time and space. He only has one assist in the first six games. He can let the emotions get the best of him. It’s now happened twice. At the end of Game Three and in the third period of Game Five.
With nothing going, Brind’Amour changed his lines. He had Domi with Staal and Jarvis. It was a mixed bag. It didn’t matter. This one was over.
While the Canes tried to mix it up between whistles, it sure didn’t bother the Rangers. At one point, Trouba laughed off a challenge.
Aho took a roughing minor. Gallant stuck out Chytil to try for the hat trick. He didn’t get it. But he delivered big time.
As the buzzer sounded, Reaves had to be separated from Smith by the linesman. Smith must’ve said something. He is tough and can play that game. But Reaves would’ve made him pay. I’m glad they broke it up.
The game was over. When they all congratulated Shesterkin and saluted the crowd at center ice, it was a nice way to end a good game. Strome gave a thumbs up. Who knows if that’s the last home game he played as a Ranger. Let’s hope not.
They got it done. It was a T-E-A-M effort. Now, it’s all about Game Seven. One more win or go home scenario. Do or die. It’ll be the only seventh game of the second round. Someone will win and advance. The other won’t and have all summer to think about it.
No matter what happens, we should all be proud of how this team plays with their backs to the wall. When Emily Kaplan asked Motte about it, he talked about the character they have in the room.
They believe. He also told her that he looked to the sky and pointed due to the passing of his fiancée’s grandma. Indicating maybe he had help with that first goal.
Whatever the case, it sure is exciting. One more chance at winning a road game in Carolina. For a shot at the two-time defending champion Lightning in the Conference Finals. It doesn’t get much better.
Who’s ready? Let’s Go!!!!!