In another tightly contested game with another unlikely goal-scoring hero, the Carolina Hurricanes took hold of a 2-0 series lead Friday night with a 2-0 win over the Rangers in PNC Arena.
Defenseman Brendan Smith broke the stalemate in the second period, while Sebastian Aho added an empty netter to ice things. Antti Raanta picked up the first postseason shutout of his NHL career, stopping all 21 shots he faced Friday night.
About last night:
Getting it from everybody
If you had Ian Cole and Brendan Smith as the providers of the first two game-winning goals in this series, please stop lying.
After Cole, who scored just two goals in the regular season and had just one playoff goal in his illustrious playoff career, scored the overtime winner in game one, it was his third-pairing partner in crime Smith who scored the goal the Canes needed to win game two on Friday night.
It was the most unlikely of players in the most unlikely of scenarios, as Aho got out on a shorthanded rush as the Canes killed off a four-minute penalty on Brady Skjei. It was Smith who crashed the net and received a brilliant pass from Aho, putting it past Igor Shesterkin for the game’s first goal.
When asked if he was surprised to see it was Cole on the other side of the 2-on-1, Aho provided some honesty.
“A little bit to be honest,” Aho said. “But it was a great read by him and a huge goal.”
Rod Brind’Amour has talked all season, but particularly in the playoffs, about needing everyone on the ice to contribute, and there’s nothing more apparent of that in these first two games than huge goals from Cole and Smith.
“That’s kind of what we talked about last series,” Brind’Amour said. “You’re always happy for the guys to get these moments. Moment the other night for [Ian Cole]. Moment tonight with [Brendan Smith] getting a big goal. That’s why you play the game and you love to see the guys enjoy the game.”
A defensive clinic, another standout performance from Raanta
The Hurricanes and the Rangers certainly didn’t play the most exciting hockey game in the world Friday night, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a strong one for the Hurricanes.
While they didn’t generate too much in the terms of offense, the Canes were brilliant defensively as they completely stifled the Rangers throughout the night.
Carolina held New York to just 21 shots on goal and just 24 scoring chances over the course of 60 minutes, as the Rangers mustered just eight high-danger chances against Raanta and finished the night with a pretty low 1.84 xGF.
The Rangers didn’t do a great job of getting into dangerous areas, and when they did Raanta was as phenomenal as he’s been all series long.
He stopped everything that came his way and gave up just three rebound shots against, doing a great job of controlling the puck while being an impenetrable wall between the pipes for the Hurricanes.
Raanta has been so good for the Canes all playoffs, a pretty remarkable feat for a veteran goalie with no real playoff experience who also probably didn’t expect to be playing in many of these games.
“It’s great to see,” Aho said. “The team gets a lot of momentum, a lot of confidence in their own play when you see your goalie playing at that level. He’s been unbelievable. I’m happy for the guy and it’s a good situation with him.”
The NHL’s blood rule is stupid
It didn’t end up making a difference in the game — in fact it was the Canes who ended up scoring during the four minutes — but the NHL’s high-sticking blood rule is stupid and dumb and needs to go away.
Brady Skjei got whistled for a high sticking against Alexis Lafreniere during the second period, and the Rangers got four minutes on the power play because of the tiniest of cuts on Lafreniere’s nose.
The Canes have benefited from it during the postseason — Tony DeAngelo got cut badly earlier — but it’s still a dumb rule. Smack someone full speed with the full brunt of your blade and it doesn’t draw blood: two minutes. Barely clip someone with the end of the blade and it draws blood: four minutes.
I hate the rule and have always hated the rule, and this seems like a good time to bring it on the road.
Now do it on the road
The Canes have a 2-0 series lead over the New York Rangers after two games at home.
The Canes also had a 2-0 series lead over the Boston Bruins after two games at home.
It’s been a very different looking first two games, and it’s a completely different matchup, but the Canes now have to prove they can go do it on the road in Madison Square Garden.
They can, but they need to play better than they did in Boston, that much is for sure.