Friday night’s tilt, their fourth and final meeting of the season, was also problematic.
The Rangers came to Raleigh and beat the Hurricanes 5-2. Their convincing win clinched a season series sweep of the Canes, whose divisional woes refuse to go away.
A fast-paced and evenly-fought first ten minutes was a sign of things to come in the opening frame. At the 11:56 mark, Jacob Trouba got whistled for his first of two first-period interference penalties. Carolina had a chance to strike, but they didn’t have an answer for Igor Shesterkin.
The young Russian goalie, and the apparent heir to Henrik Lundqvist’s throne, dazzled as the Hurricanes’ first power play unit made the Rangers penalty kill look foolish. Andrei Svechnikov had a pair of grade-a chances in the first half of the man advantage, but he couldn’t beat his fellow countryman.
The second unit was less effective than the first, but they still forced Shesterkin to bail his penalty killers out.
The Rangers built off of the momentum that their goalie gave them, controlling possession in the minutes following the Trouba penalty.
The Hurricanes were finally able to put together a strong offensive zone shift, but Jordan Staal’s point wrist shot got blocked by Mika Zibanejad, and the Swedish capitalized on a long-range breakaway chance to give his team the game’s first lead and extend his point streak to six games.
The goal came with under four minutes on the clock, and it was a stinger.
Trouba went to the box again with just over two minutes left in the period, but Carolina’s power play had very little in the way of quality opportunities the second time around. It was a 1-0 game through twenty minutes.
The Rangers blocked a staggering 17 shots in the first period.
The second period was an encapsulation of the Hurricanes’ luck against the Rangers as of late.
Jordan Staal got the gate early in the frame for slashing. The referee seemed to think that he broke the stick of Zibanejad. Upon further review, it was clear that he didn’t. Carolina did kill the penalty, however, and Staal picked up a primary assist on the game-tying goal.
Jaccob Slavin connected a long pass to Staal as he left the penalty box, and Staal dropped the puck off to Brock McGinn, who patiently skated over the hashmarks and fired a wrist shot against the grain and into the net for his seventh goal of the season.
That would be the end of Carolina’s favorable results in the period.
Just under halfway through the period, Brett Pesce got pick-pocketed by Artemi Panarin at the top of the Canes’ circles, and the short odd-man chance the other way resulted in a centering pass bouncing off of Pesce, which caused what would’ve been an errant pass to deflect right into the net. Just like that, New York was up 2-1.
In the final five minutes, the Rangers scored again. Brady Skjei carried the puck behind the Carolina net, tried to center a pass in front, and it bounced off of Jake Gardiner’s skate and into the net to make it a 3-1 hockey game.
The period went from bad to worse with less than a minute left. Erik Haula got floored by Trouba behind the Rangers net. Trouba made direct contact with Haula’s head. Haula went to the locker room right away, and no penalty was called on Trouba, who had already been whistled for three penalties on the night (two for interference, one for roughing).
Jacob Trouba makes contact with the head of Erik Haula. Haula goes directly to the locker room. No penalty for Trouba, who already has three penalties tonight (two for interference, one for roughing). pic.twitter.com/V5f3GKaQ4g— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) February 22, 2020
The Hurricanes were able to exhale a bit, though, as Haula did return to the ice for the third period, which started with an abbreviated Rangers power play thanks to a slashing call on Justin Williams.
New York scored on the power play. Zibanejad spun a pass through the crease, and the puck leaked out to Panarin, who rifled a lightning quick snap shot by Mrazek and extended the road team’s lead to 4-1.
A few minutes later, the Hurricanes managed to get a power play of their own, and they came through with a goal to cut their deficit to two goals.
Sebastian Aho poked a loose puck over the goal line after nearly 90 seconds of sustained offensive zone puck possession. It was Aho’s 35th goal of the season, and it extended his point streak to eleven games. Svechnikov got an assist on the goal, extending his point streak to nine games.
That could have been a turning point for the Hurricanes, but the momentum they gained from that goal quickly evaporated because of a senseless (and dangerous) slew-foot from Warren Foegele way behind the play.
The Canes killed off the penalty, but they were never able to get control of the game back in their hands.
Things got chippy down the stretch, reaching its peak when Nino Niederreiter charged Tony DeAngelo. DeAngelo retaliated with a slash, so both players got matching two-minute penalties.
Ryan Strome scored on the empty net in the final minute of the game, and that was the last tally of the evening.
The Rangers capped off their season series with the Hurricanes with a resounding 5-2 win at PNC Arena - that’s a sweep, ladies and gentlemen.
Mrazek stopped 31 of 35 shots on the night, but he was upstaged by Shesterkin. The rookie stopped 27 of 29 shots and made a number of early stops that ultimately played a huge role in the outcome of the game.
The Hurricanes have a quick turnaround. They’ll fly north of the border and take on the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night in what will be an important bounce-back after a bad loss.
(On playing in his 300th NHL game on Friday) It’s cool. It goes quick, but I’d rather have the two points tonight. It was nice to get that goal, but we have to come out tomorrow with full intensity and play a full sixty minutes.
(On if CAR’s struggles against NYR get in their heads) It’s just another game. I think we just need to come out and execute our style of play. I think we lacked that for spurts of the game.
(On establishing their game for sixty minutes) Lately, we haven’t come out with that jump. We wanted to build off of that Nashville game. I think we came out strong and played a full sixty minutes there. Tonight, unfortunately, I don’t think we played that full sixty minutes and it cost us.
(On trying to not take frustration penalties because of upped intensity) That’s just part of hockey. You just have to let those slide and keep your cool. You’re not going to score goals from inside the penalty box. The fewer penalties we take, the more offense we’ll get.
(On if the game was more about CAR or NYR) I think it was more on us. I think our execution was just a little off. The little plays in our own end. You could tell, just passes going into the feet and, if we did chip it out, our guy wasn’t slashing - things that have to be on right now and were on last game. It only takes a couple of momentum shifts to change the game and we couldn’t put them together.
(On the quick turnaround in Toronto) It’s a good thing. We have to get right back into it. We have to park this game and find a way to get a couple of points in Toronto against a tough team in a tough building. It’ll be a good challenge for us.
I thought the first period was okay, and we probably deserved to be tied. We had three great looks. It wasn’t a great period, but we were down. We were just chasing the game the whole time and we couldn’t get to what we wanted to do.
(On if some of CAR’s penalties were out of frustration) I don’t think they were frustration penalties... Jordan’s was not a penalty. Nino’s was not a penalty. Foege’s might have been frustration, but the game was done at that point. I don’t think they were frustration penalties, but we can’t be taking penalties. It takes too much out of our game when we’re killing the whole night.
(On Trouba’s hit on Haula) I saw it live. I think it was a pretty good hit, I don’t know. I haven’t seen a replay of it. They didn’t call it (a penalty), so.