Rangers fail to sweep, drop Game 4 to Hurricanes 4-3

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the New York Rangers tasted defeat Saturday. They lost Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Second Round to the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 in Raleigh, failing to complete their second consecutive series sweep.

Former Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei scored Carolina’s first power-play goal of this series at 16:49 of the third period to break a 3-3 tie and hand New York its first defeat after opening the playoffs with seven straight wins.

“I thought the penalty kill was still good,” Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said about the game-deciding goal. “[Skjei] took a shot from the point, he hammered it. It had eyes. It was a top corner shot. Traffic in front of the net. There was a lot going on there.”

The Rangers had stormed back from early 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to pull even on Alexis Lafreniere’s goal early in the third. But the Hurricanes found a way to win this one, the fourth straight game in the series decided by one goal.

It was also the first time Igor Shesterkin allowed more than three goals in his past 31 postseason games. Shesterkin finished with 27 saves.

Will Cuylle and Barclay Goodrow also scored for the Rangers, who never had the lead Saturday.

Frederik Andersen made 22 saves in his return for the Hurricanes. He started the first two games in the series but Pyotr Kochetkov started Game 3 in Raleigh, a 3-2 overtime win by the Rangers.

Sebastian Aho, Stefan Noesen and Evgeny Kuznetsov also scored for Carolina and Teuvo Teravainen had two assists, including the primary on Skjei’s game-winning goal.

“I don’t think this affects our game or confidence,” Goodrow said. “We’ve just got to come back with a better game Monday (in Game 5).”

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Carolina Hurricanes 4 – New York Rangers 3

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

It was a tough start for the Rangers in Game 4. They allowed a goal less than two minutes into play, fell behind by two goals for the first time in these playoffs and ultimately surrendered three goals to the desperate Hurricanes in the first period.

Kuznetsov whistled a shot off the rush over Shesterkin’s shoulder on the stick side to give Carolina a 1-0 lead just 1:51 after the initial puck drop. The goal was unassisted after Kuznetsov picked off an errant Goodrow pass under duress in the neutral zone.

Noesen then swooped in to bury a rebound of Teravainen’s shot at 6:33 to make it 2-0 Carolina. Not only did New York allow the first two goals for the first time in the 2024 postseason, but it was their first two-goal deficit at any point through eight games of the playoffs.

The Rangers had a strong pushback though. The Mika Zibanejad-Chris Kreider-Jack Roslovic line buzzed the Hurricanes zone and forced Andersen to make it two difficult saves before Zibanejad hit the crossbar.

On the next shift, Cuylle took a pass from Kappo Kakko between the circles, split the defense and beat Andersen to the glove side for his first career goal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs to cut the Rangers deficit to 2-1 at 8:06.

Cuylle had a strong first period, scoring the goal and being credited with three hits. The rookie returned to the third line with Alex Wennberg and Kakko in Game 4 after Filip Chytil was scratched due to an illness. Chytil played for the first time in six months in Game 3, and Cuylle had shifted down to the fourth line and Matt Rempe was scratched.

On Saturday, with Chytil out, Jonny Brodzinski played his first game this postseason.

The Hurricanes settled things down after Cuylle’s goal and restored their two-goal advantage when Aho one-timed a Jake Guentzel pass past Shesterkin at 15:29 to make it 3-1. It was Aho’s third goal of the playoffs and first in this series. He had six assists in the first three games against the Rangers.

New York showed plenty of jump to start the second period. Within the first five minutes, Lafreniere hit the post with a left-wing shot and Kreider was denied from point-blank range by Andersen.

Carolina came within inches of taking a 4-1 lead at 5:06 when Tony DeAngelo’s one-timer through traffic hit the post to Shesterkin’s stick side. The battle of the posts continued at 9:57 when Wennberg caught iron off a 2-on-1 started with a terrific outlet pass by Shesterkin.

The Rangers finally got one through at 12:43 of the second period when Goodrow deflected a Braden Schneider shot past Andersen for his second goal of the playoffs.

Shesterkin made a huge save with 13.7 seconds left when he swallowed up Guentzel’s shot off a 2-on-1 rush, and the 3-2 score carried into the third period.

It didn’t take long for the Rangers to tie the game in the third. Lafreniere scored an incredible goal from behind the goal line, banking a backhand shot off the leg of Andersen and into the net at 2:04 for his fourth goal of the series.

“He seems to be getting stronger,” Laviolette said about Lafreniere, who had three shots on goal and eight attempts Saturday. “I thought he could’ve had three or four goals.”

With the game — and the series — on the line, Shesterkin and Andersen traded big-time saves with under five minutes to play in regulation. First, it was Shesterkin with a lightning-quick left pad save on Dmitry Orlov’s bomb from between the circles. Then, Andersen answered back with a clutch save on Jacob Trouba cutting to the net and redirecting a Kakko feed.

That Andersen save was huge because less than a minute later the Hurricanes cashed in their first power-play goal of the series to regain the lead, 4-3. With Ryan Lindgren in the penalty box for tripping, Skjei ripped a slap shot over Shesterkin’s glove with 3:11 left in regulation for what turned out to be the game-winning goal.

Carolina had been 0-for-16 on the power play in this series, and 0-for-1 Saturday, before Skjei’s first goal of the playoffs.

The Rangers lead the best-of-7 series 3-1 and can close it out Monday in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden.

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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