Rangers look to end series in Game 5 ‘dog fight,’ avoid trip back to Carolina

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

After an impressive run, the New York Rangers seven-game playoff win streak was put to an end when they dropped Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Second Round to the Carolina Hurricanes, 4-3 on Saturday. Now with a 3-1 lead in the series, the Rangers head back home and prepare for a critical Game 5 on Monday night at the World’s Most Famous Arena.

While it is by no means a must-win game for the Rangers, allowing the Hurricanes to make it a 3-2 series heading back to Carolina is suboptimal. With that in mind, the Blueshirts should be treating this like a do-or-die contest, and close out the Hurricanes for good.

“There’s a lot that goes into (home ice) that can work in your favor,” Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said postgame Saturday. “We have to make sure we take care of what we do on the ice. Certainly the fans, even the ones here (in Carolina) tonight, we could hear them. We’re going back home to our building that’s been so good, so strong. Our fans are incredible, to have that energy in the building behind us will be important.”

The Rangers, backed by the Madison Square Garden crowd, will look to finish off the Hurricanes, who are fighting for their season one game at a time. Game 5 is surely set to be an intense battle, or, as Hurricanes forward Evgeny Kuznetsov described it Sunday, a “dog fight.”

“All I want to say is, it’s going to be a dog fight tomorrow,” said Kuznetsov. “There is one bowl of food and two dogs are going to compete with each other. They know they don’t want to come back (to Carolina). They know it’s going to be hell here.”

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Rangers look to finish off Hurricanes in Game 5 at home

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes
Evgeny Kuznetsov takes a shot against the Rangers in Game 4 of the 2024 Eastern Conference Second Round — James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Those are some strong words from Kuznetsov, a 2018 Stanley Cup champion who scored the pivotal first goal in the Hurricanes’ Game 4 victory. But has some validity.

Carolina has used its home ice as a crutch in the Stanley Cup Playoffs over the past several seasons. Since the 2022 postseason, they hold a 16-5 record at PNC Arena in the playoffs. However, they are just 4-13 on the road, including 0-3 against the Rangers in 2022 and 0-2 against the Blueshirts this postseason.

Should the Hurricanes steal a win in New York, it will be a tough battle back in Carolina to win Game 6. One that could easily force this series to a Game 7, given Carolina’s pedigree at home in the playoffs.

This is why Game 5 should feel like a must-win scenario for the Rangers. The last thing they want is to give Carolina too much life and belief that they can be just the fifth team in NHL history to pull off the reverse sweep.

“The team understand the situation,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour stated. “It’s just about staying focused and saying, ‘OK, we have to win one more game.’ That’s all we can do, and take it from there.”

While a 3-1 deficit still seems somewhat insurmountable for Carolina, stealing a win in New York will drastically change the dynamic of this series.

After four games decided by one goal, one in overtime and another in double OT, this series very likely could see the best from both teams in Game 5 on Monday.

Dane Walsh is a life-long fan of the New York Rangers. Growing up in the tri-state area, Dane has... More about Dane Walsh

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