Winning special teams battle among 3 Rangers keys in Game 5 vs. Hurricanes

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

The New York Rangers are back at Madison Square Garden on Monday with a second opportunity to close out their Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Carolina Hurricanes. After racing to a 3-0 lead in the best-of-7 series, the Blueshirts lost Game 4 down in Raleigh on Saturday, 4-3, when former Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei hammered home the game-winning power-play goal late in the third period.

Now, Hurricanes forward Evgeny Kuznetsov is predicting a “dog fight” at MSG on Monday and warning that the Rangers want no part of returning to Raleigh for a Game 6.

“They know they don’t want to come back (to Carolina),” Kuznetsov said. “They know it’s going to be hell here.”

Great quote. And some truth to it. But the Rangers are such a calm team, one that doesn’t panic, so they certainly won’t play scared Monday. The Rangers may have more energy and determination to close this series out. But they won’t be panicked nor scared.

All that said, after four games decided by one goal in this series, Game 5 should be a great one at the World’s Most Famous Arena.

Let’s examine three keys for the Rangers in Game 5 against the Hurricanes.

Related: Filip Chytil feeling better, could be ‘option’ in Game 5 for Rangers

3. Make Hurricanes play from behind

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

The Rangers played from behind in each of the past three games in this series, winning twice. They spotted the Hurricanes leads of 2-0 and 3-1 and had tied the score by early in the third period of Game 4 on Saturday. Though they lost that one, it’s safe to say that the Rangers are comfortable playing from behind, even if it’s not their first choice. Those 28 comeback wins in the regular season attest to this.

But in Game 5, playing in front of their rabid fans and with the Hurricanes barely breathing in this elimination game for them, it would behoove the Rangers to score first. Early and often would be nice, but perhaps not so realistic against such a quality opponent. Simply, playing with a lead of any kind will work.

It’s not that Carolina will fold being behind on the scoreboard. But it would ratchet up the pressure on them and keep the Blueshirts Faithful in the game and at full throat. That’s home-ice advantage. And remember, the Hurricanes are 1-3 in these playoffs and 4-13 since the 2022 postseason on the road.

A third-period lead with Igor Shesterkin in net and the chance to eliminate the Hurricanes at home? The Rangers would certainly sign up for that.

2. Artemi Panarin, Vincent Trocheck need bounce-back games

NHL: New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins
Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck not only were Game 3 overtime heroes in Raleigh on Thursday, they’ve been two of New York’s best players throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Panarin’s four-game winning goals are tops in the NHL and his nine points are fourth on the Rangers. Trocheck has points in seven of eight playoff games and his 12 points are second on the Rangers, and among the NHL leaders.

But both were shut down and ineffective against the Hurricanes in Game 4. Out-attempted, out-chanced and outscored. Panarin was a minus-3 with one shot on goal. Trocheck was a minus-2, just 7-for-14 on face-offs and had two shots. Neither had a point. Each was completely neutralized by the Sabastian Aho line.

So, perhaps Rangers coach Peter Laviolette tries to create a better matchup at home for the Trocheck line. Or simply, Panarin and Trocheck return to form after a rare off night.

Either way, the Rangers need more from these two in Game 5.

1. Win special-teams battle

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

The team that’s won the special teams battle has won each game in this series, so far. Special teams has made the difference in four one-goal games.

The Rangers crushed it on special teams the first two games, 4-for-9 on the power play and a perfect 10-for-10 on the penalty kill. Though they were 0-for-4 on the power-play in Game 3, they still won the battle because they were 5-for-5 on the PK and Chris Kreider scored a shorthanded goal.

In Game 4, Skjei scored the only power-play goal for either team, Carolina’s first of the series.

New York has now gone two games without a power-play goal. Not a crisis, but worth being aware of. Skjei said the Hurricanes are doing their best to stay out of the box, evidenced by New York having only one PP in Game 4.

This could be the deciding factor in Game 5 on Monday.

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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