Rangers Recall: Playoff win streak halted, but confidence is strong

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

On Saturday, the New York Rangers bad start in Game 4 against the Carolina Hurricanes ultimately ended in a 4-3 loss. Despite clawing their way back to even in the third period, they allowed the Hurricanes to finally score a power-play goal with 3:11 remaining. Carolina then held on for its first win in this Eastern Conference Second Round series.

“We dug ourselves a hole early,” coach Peter Laviolette said afterwards. “I don’t think it was because we weren’t ready to play… but the [chances] we gave up were pretty noisy. We’ve got to come out a little sharper than that. We were competing and working, doing our job offensively. But there’s some things we could do better defensively.”

One way to look at failing to sweep the Hurricanes is that the Blueshirts played their worst game in this series, and only lost by Brady Skjei’s late power-play goal. As the Rangers pressed to break the tie, Carolina was able to catch Ryan Lindgren a step behind, forcing him to take down Jordan Martinook on an odd-man rush.

C’est la vie.

Now, the Rangers will truly show if they are built for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. How they respond after their first postseason loss should be a great indication of what to expect going forward as each round and opponent will only get tougher.

Related: Filip Chytil unable to play Game 4 due to ‘illness’

Rangers Recall: Team suffers first postseason loss

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

The Good: Resiliency and Alexis Lafreniere

Let’s be honest for a moment, shall we? After the way the Rangers started Game 4, allowing a goal to Evgeny Kuznetsov off a brutal Barclay Goodrow turnover just 1:51 in, and followed by a total defensive zone breakdown leading to Stefan Noesen’s goal less than five minutes later, many fans thought they would be run out of the building.

However, that’s just not in the DNA of the Rangers, who have shown an incredible ability to comeback in games, dating back to the 2021-22 season. Will Cuylle responded to cut the score in half a few minutes later, but Sebastian Aho would restore the two-goal before the first period ended.

Resilient as always, New York got goals from Goodrow (second period) and Alexis Lafreniere (third period) to knot it up before succumbing to a desperate Hurricanes squad.

Speaking of Lafreniere, the 22-year-old winger was an absolute force and probably could’ve scored a few more than the amazing behind-the-net bank shot to tie it up in the third period. Through eight playoff games, he’s scored 10 points (four goals, six assists) while also adding 12 hits and three blocks.

“He seems to be getting stronger,” Laviolette complimented Lafreniere. “It’s nice to continue to see him take steps in the playoffs and be a difference maker.”

The Bad: Trouba-Gustafsson pairing

The defensive pairing of Jacob Trouba and Erik Gustafsson had a rough night, and ultimately finished minus-1 each for the game. Throughout the contest, they were beaten to pucks leading to extended pressure and zone time for the Hurricanes.

Gustafsson, in particular struggled to handle pucks, and on Aho’s goal to make it 3-1, he failed to stop a simple pass around the boards. That hop over his stick landed on Jake Guentzel’s tape, who found Aho in the slot for a bang-bang play.

To their credit, the duo battled hard and although they bent at times in the second and third periods, they did not break.

“We take the confidence that when we play our game, we play pretty well,” Trouba explained. “You’ve got to keep your confidence for sure. You’re probably not going to win all of them in a row. It’s a good team and we’ve played four really close games. Turn our attention to Game 5 and try to close them out.”

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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