It was Ian Cole, just as everyone in the building expected it would be, who played overtime hero for the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday night in game one against the Rangers, as Cole scored 3:12 into the extra period to complete the comeback win for the Canes.
The Hurricanes opened up their second-round series with New York in the worst way possible, playing 40 horrendous minutes of hockey as only a great night from Antti Raanta, who made 27 saves on 28 shots faced, kept the home team within striking range in PNC Arena.
But then a flip switched in the third, as the Canes played 23:12 of electric hockey to get a late game-tying goal from Sebastian Aho before Cole sent the raucous home crowd home happy in Carolina’s first taste of overtime hockey this postseason.
The first period was a brutal one for the Canes, who played by far their worst 20 minutes on home ice of the postseason so far.
The Rangers dominated the play as the Hurricanes looked flat and unengaged, with New York holding a 12-8 advantage in shots, 7-3 edge in high-danger chances and a 1.75-0.6 lead in expected goals.
New York also had a 1-0 lead in actual goals after 20 minutes, and that number was most definitely a fortunate one for the Canes as Raanta made a couple of massive saves to keep the Hurricanes’ deficit at one.
The Rangers did convert once in the opening frame, taking advantage of an awful turnover from Tony DeAngelo in the neutral zone to make it 1-0. Alexis Lafreniere jumped all over an ill-advised back pass from DeAngelo, threading a good assist to Chytil for the goal on the far side.
Chytil nearly made it 2-0 with his second of the game later in the first, though Raanta made his best save of the opening period to keep it out.
The second period, while maybe not quite as egregiously bad as the first, still wasn’t very good for the Hurricanes as the game just kind of sputtered along.
The Canes had some more sloppy turnovers, Raanta made some more strong saves and the Hurricanes played at least solid backed up in its own third of the ice. Carolina showed a glimpse of life in the final couple minutes of the second period, though still a long way from anything good.
The Hurricanes came out in the third period a completely different team, finally getting to their game and taking it to the Rangers rather than playing on their heels.
The Canes got the first seven shots on net of the period, attacking with some jumbled lines that injected some much-needed life into the Hurricanes,
The Hurricanes’ got a prime chance, and their best of the game to that point, with 6:45 left, as Carolina sprung Nino Niederreiter all alone on a one-on-one with Igor Shesterkin, who stopped 24 of 26 shots faced. Niederreiter’s shot beat the Russian netminder, though it didn’t beat the frame of the goal as it went bar down and out.
Nino Niederreiter goes bar down and out on a breakaway against Shesterkin.— Walt Ruff (@WaltRuff) May 19, 2022
It's a game of inches, they say. pic.twitter.com/NVPlhks4Hf
The Canes found another post with just under three minutes to play, as Aho got in behind New York and rang one off the iron as well.
But this time the Hurricanes got right back to it, as mere seconds later Carolina got the puck back and Seth Jarvis worked it to Aho. Aho crashed towards the net, and smashed in a follow after his initial backhand attempt was denied by Shesterkin.
It didn’t take long in the overtime period for the Hurricanes to wrap things up, as a great shift in the offensive zone from the line of Andrei Svechnikov, Vincent Trocheck and Martin Necas ended with Cole firing from deep and seeing his shot deflect in off of the Rangers’ Ryan Lindgren.
The Canes and Rangers will get back to it Friday night in PNC Arena for game two, with the Hurricanes looking to stay perfect at home in the postseason.