Rangers fail to close out Hurricanes again in 4-1 Game 5 defeat

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Carolina Hurricanes at New York Rangers
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers let a third-period lead slip away, allowing four unanswered goals in a 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Second Round at Madison Square Garden on Monday. It’s the second straight game the Hurricanes won when facing elimination in this series, after a 4-3 victory in Game 4.

The Rangers still lead the best-of-7 series 3-2. They will try again to finish off the Hurricanes in Game 6 in Raleigh on Thursday.

Jordan Staal scored the tying goal early in the third period for Carolina and Evgeny Kuznetsov potted the eventual game-winner three minutes later. Three minutes after that, Jordan Martinook made it 3-1 before Martin Necas’ empty-net goal closed out the scoring in a stunning turn of events.

“There were a lot of issues tonight,” Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said. “It wasn’t just the third period.”

Necas had a goal and an assist for the Hurricanes, and Jack Drury contributed two assists.

Frederik Andersen made 20 saves for Carolina, allowing only a Jacob Trouba shorthanded goal in the second period.

Igor Shesterkin had 24 saves for the Rangers, who’ve lost two in a row after opening the postseason with seven consecutive wins.

“We gave ourselves a chance, but not a good third period,” Trouba said. “We let one slip away. There’s not a lot of time to dwell on it or feel bad about it. We’ve got to turn our attention to Game 6 … go down to Carolina and bring a better game.”

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Carolina Hurricanes 4 – New York Rangers 1

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Carolina Hurricanes at New York Rangers
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Though the first period was scoreless, it was an entertaining, fast-paced start to Game 5. Each team had nine shots on goal and several good scoring chances.

In fact, on the game’s first shift, Shesterkin set the tone with a solid pad save on a Staal deflection in front. Two minutes later, Shesterkin just got to the post in time to deny Sebastian Aho’s wraparound from behind the net.

Shesterkin’s biggest save of the first period came at the 17-minute mark when he denied Jake Guentzel on a break after the Hurricanes forward slipped behind the defense and tried to beat the Rangers goalie 5-hole.

At the other end of the ice, Andersen made a sharp save on a Chris Kreider tip at 14:10 and another pad stop on Mika Zibanejad’s tip in front after Kreider’s slick power-play pass at 18:50.

After failing to score on their first two power plays — one late in the first period, another early in the second — the Rangers got a massive lift from the other half of their special teams. With Jack Roslovic in the penalty box serving a tripping minor at 5:56 of the second period, Trouba made a game-changing play at both ends of the ice.

First, Trouba blocked an Aho left-wing shot. Then after Aho fell down, Trouba collected the puck and took off on a 2-on-1 the other way. Hurricanes defenseman Brady Skjei took away the passing lane, so Trouba snapped a shot from the right circle under the arm of Andersen for a shorthanded goal at 6:23.

It was just Trouba’s fourth career postseason goal in 66 games and his first of these playoffs. It was also New York’s second shorthanded goal in this series and fourth of the postseason.

And it held up as the only goal for either side in the first two periods, with Shesterkin stopping all 18 Hurricanes shots through 40 minutes. The Rangers had 19 blocked shots — four by Erik Gustafsson — in the first two periods and won 77 percent of the face-offs, to support Shesterkin.

Carolina started the third period on the power play and Shesterkin made one big save when Seth Jarvis’ pass hit Trouba and redirected on net, where the Rangers goalie alertly turned it aside.

But shortly after the penalty expired, the Hurricanes finally broke through against Shesterkin to tie the game 1-1 at 3:33 of the third period. Staal took a lead pass from Dmitry Orlov after jumping off the bench, weaved around a flatfooted Braden Schneider and slipped a backhand shot into the net. Staal’s simply gorgeous goal was his first of the playoffs.

Three minutes later Carolina had its first lead of the game.

After Andersen flashed a quick right-pad save, the Hurricanes broke out the other way and Kuznetsov banged in the rebound of Skjei’s shot up high on Shesterkin to make it 2-1 at 6:39. It was Kuznetsov’s fourth goal of the playoffs and second in as many games in this series.

Artemi Panarin, who allowed Kuznetsov to slip behind him to bury the rebound, slammed his stick against the glass after the goal.

The Hurricanes weren’t done, though. Under duress midway through the period, Trouba turned the puck over behind his own net. Necas zipped a pass into the slot off the stick of Drury and right to Martinook, who fired a shot past Shesterkin, his second playoff goal making it 3-1 at 9:56.

Thirty-one seconds later the Rangers had a prime opportunity to get right back in the game when Andrei Svechnikov airmailed the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty at 10:27. But the Rangers, who had four power-play goals in the first two games of this series, were held off the scoreboard and finished the game 0-for-3 on the man advantage, their third straight game without a power-play goal.

Necas put the Rangers away when he scored into an empty net with 3:29 remaining, firing the puck roughly 160 feet from his own end into the cage after Shesterkin was pulled for an extra attacker.

“I think they just wanted it more in the third,” Vincent Trocheck surmised.

The teams will have an extra day off between Games 5 and 6, with the series resuming Thursday at PNC Arena.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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