RALEIGH — Forty-four times in his Hall of Fame career, Henrik Lundqvist has taken the ice against the Carolina Hurricanes. In 21 of those games, including Thursday, the goaltender known as the King has made 30 or more saves.
Entering Thursday’s game, he was 16-4 in those games. You can now make it 17-4.
Lundqvist stole the show, making 45 saves including 22 in the first period alone, almost singlehandedly leading the New York Rangers to a 4-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena.
Time after time, especially early, the Hurricanes made Lundqvist work, but he showed no apparent effects of having played the night before. The Hurricanes’ first period saw them own possession to the tune of a 78% relative Corsi at even strength. They outchanced the Rangers 13-2 in high-danger opportunities. The Canes had 11 shot attempts on two first-period power plays; the Rangers had the same total in the entire period.
And none of it mattered, thanks to the brick wall in the Rangers’ net.
The Hurricanes could have helped themselves, to be fair. Warren Foegele hit the post on what might have been the Canes’ best chance of the game. Eetu Luostarinen, making his NHL debut, saw his first goal jump over his backhand with Lundqvist down and out.
All the missed chances were sure to come back to bite the Hurricanes, and they did just that in the final minute of the first period when Dougie Hamilton lost track of Artemi Panarin in front of the Carolina net and the Russian star made no mistake. Shots after 1: 22-7 Carolina. Score after 1: 1-0 New York.
Hamilton at least made amends late in the second period, tipping home a Jaccob Slavin point shot for his seventh goal of the season to tie the game. But it only took three and a half minutes for the Rangers to take the lead again, on a Brendan Lemieux deflection with Brett Pesce in the box for tripping.
Less than a minute into the third, the Rangers doubled their lead with a backbreaking goal when Jake Gardiner turned the puck over to Pavel Buchnevich, who set up Filip Chytil for a tap-in at the goal line. The dominance of the game at one end had, yet again, resulted in leaky play at the other, and you could say few in the crowd were surprised.
From there, the spotlight again turned to shine on the ageless Swedish netminder. Lundqvist stoned Nino Niederreiter on a 2-on-0 with the Rangers caught in a line change exactly midway through the period, sending the not-insignificant contingent of Rangers fans in the building into an “M-V-P” chant.
With 4:02 left, after Rod Brind’Amour had swapped Sebastian Aho and Lucas Wallmark, the Canes pulled it to within a goal. Aho’s centering pass glanced off the stick of Lias Andersson and past Lundqvist, exactly the type of excuse-me goal that the Canes needed to put into the Rangers net.
But it wasn’t enough, and with Mrazek pulled for the extra attacker the Hurricanes couldn’t keep old friend Adam Fox from salting the game away into the empty net. The Canes have now lost three games in a row, and what should have been a week of collecting points over teams that playoff teams should expect to beat has instead turned into a week of soul-searching and disappointment.
In other words, welcome to November, Carolina Hurricanes style.
They Said It
These are tough ones, because you played a pretty good game. I thought we were the better game from start to finish, and their goalie was great. It happens. In 82 games, your goalie steals one here and there, and that’s what happened. I thought the other night we were good too. We didn’t get rewarded in the first period the other night, it was the same kind of thing. It’s tough, when you play like that you feel like you should score more goals than we did, for sure, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. So you just have to pick the pieces up. I’m happy, because that’s the way it should look, for me. I like the fact that we did pretty much everything we wanted to do, and we just didn’t get the result.
You never want to get scored on anytime, but to me the early one (in the third) is the one that frustrates you, because we just kind of took a little breath there and it’s in the net. The first period we played flawless, really, except for one shift, and that ended up in our net too. Right now we probably have to play almost a perfect game, it feels like. But that’s the game that I’m looking for out of our group. It looks right, it’s the style of play we want to play, and I’m pretty sure if we can play like that we’re going to win a lot more games than we lose.
[So you’re in full process-not-results mode now.] I’m in results mode, but what are you going to say after that? Bad game? I mean, you’d be stupid. That was about as good a period as we could have played to start a game. We’ve started every game on time, we’ve been really good in the first period, we just haven’t gotten the goals to go in. It’s the NHL. The other team’s going to have some pushback at some point. They had a couple chances they buried, that’s going to happen. We just have to find a way to hit the back of the net. If you’re getting the opportunities, which tonight we certainly did, that’s all you can ask.
You’ve got to keep believing in it. As long as you’re believing that’s the way we need to play, you’re going to be fine. What you don’t want to have is guys start doing their own thing, and thinking that’s the way it’s going to get done. That’s what we have to guard against right now, thinking that we have to do something different. That’s the way it should look. The results will come if we keep playing like that.
It was one of those games where we had a certain matchup ideology that we were trying to stick with. Our fourth line was fine, so I wanted to get them out there.
I thought we came out pretty hard, and for the most part we dominated that game. The bounces didn’t go our way, and a couple of key saves for them. The result wasn’t what we wanted, but we worked really hard tonight and had so many grade-A chances.
We just keep chugging away. We talked after the Philly game about what we needed to do, and tonight was more the way we know how to play. A couple of mistakes cost us goals, but we kept shooting pucks, getting on top of their D and working them, and their goalie played really well tonight.
If we can continue to play like that, we’ll win more games than we lose. You play the whole first period, pretty much every shift in their end, then you give them one little break and it kills all the momentum you gained in that period. We came out strong again in the second, kept it to our game, then the goal to start the third kills it. We obviously wanted to come out strong, take it to them right away. It’s a dagger.
Any loss is frustrating, but when you do it the right way and catch a couple bad bounces, a couple tough breaks, it’s definitely more frustrating. But there’s some light in that, just playing the right way. We just have to keep playing like that, keep getting pucks to the net from everywhere in the offensive zone, and let our forwards go to work down there. We were hemming them in down there for most of the first period, and most of the game. We just have to keep doing what we did.
- In a vacuum, I agree with the sentiment that the Hurricanes just need to stay the course, which was the message down the line tonight. But the “what, me worry?” vibe glosses over some serious defensive deficiencies. Mrazek wasn’t great tonight, but he was done no favors. Two Rangers goals came directly off Hurricanes defensive miscues: Hamilton losing Panarin on the first goal and Gardiner turning the puck over on the third.
- Slavin and Brind’Amour are right that they’ll win more games than they’ll lose when they’re controlling zone time the way they did tonight. But the way they’d win those games is in a track meet. This isn’t a team that can win a 2-1 game right now.
- Brind’Amour clearly trusted Luostarinen, who had 9:21 of ice time and could have had more. He was a victim of circumstance more than anything as the Canes shortened their bench in the third period. The rookie acquitted himself well, and has more than earned a longer look.
- The one thing that was clearly running on all cylinders was the power play. The Canes made a slight adjustment to running more plays from behind the net, and it gave them some really good looks. That’s the one spot you can point to and say that the effort will pay off without needing to caveat it.
- Quietly, Martin Necas has a four-game point streak. It’s the second time he’s done that this season, and we’re in game 16. Kid’s good.
- The Canes were scheduled to practice tomorrow, but will take the day off. They’ll fly to Ottawa in the afternoon to prepare for Saturday’s game.