It’s game 2 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers and the New York Rangers need a win! Falling down 2-0 might as well be a death sentence in just a 5 game series. The pressure is back squarely on Henrik Lundqvist’s shoulders in what becomes a must-win game.
It took 16 seconds for the door of the penalty box to swing back open. After 42 total penalty minutes in Game 1, Pavel Buchnevich took the first penalty of the game on a bad cross check in the offensive zone. The Canes had some good opportunities but couldn’t get a shot on net. The Rangers immediately countered with some good offensive zone time, but after a loss on an offensive zone faceoff, the Hurricanes had a couple of fantastic chances, including a 2-on-1 and a chance after a mishandled puck by Lundqvist. Hank fought off both opportunities and the game remained scoreless until the Canes snuck one right under Lundqvist’s armpit to put the Rangers back in an early hole. The Hurricanes managed to sustain pressure for a few shifts, and Brett Howden found himself wide open in front of the net but was robbed by Mrazek’s catching glove. Minutes later, the Panarin-Kakko line generated a few chances but still couldn’t score. But, still a very welcoming sight to see Panarin looking more like the magician he was in the regular season. The Rangers continued to hold the puck in the zone and managed to draw a penalty. With 1:22 left on the powerplay, Zibanejad was slashed to draw another penalty and force a 5-on-3. After not much going on for the majority of the 2-man advantage, Zibanejad hit the post, then seconds later, the puck made its way to the stick of Ryan Strome, who fired a beautiful cross-crease pass to Artemi Panarin who went top shelf to beat Mrazek and tie it up. The Rangers still had about 30 seconds left of powerplay time, as the goal was scored 5-on-3, unfortunately, not much could be done. After the kill, the Hurricanes had a couple of amazing chances that Lundqvist fought off to keep the game tied. A few stale minutes passed before the Hurricanes took a bad tripping penalty in neutral ice. This penalty sent the Rangers back to the powerplay with a golden opportunity to take their first lead of the series. The two best opportunities on the man-advantage were in succession. Carolina found themselves on an odd-man rush but Lundqvist fought it off with the blocker and on the counter Zibanjead found himself wide-open on the right dot, but Mrazek robbed him with the glove. Seconds later, Kakko breezed past his former teammate Brady Skjei for a partial breakaway, but could not get the shot off. After the powerplay ended, Brendan Smith fanned on a pass behind his own net, but Lundqvist made a fantastic save on the Hurricanes forward who had a clear shot from the left circle. That about did it for the action in the period, but just after the horn sounded, there was an extremely late hit on Ryan Lindgren that the Rangers really did not like. It was right in front of the bench, and the majority of the team began pushing and shoving the Hurricanes right back. In the end though, that was by far the Rangers best period of hockey since the return. They were faster, more physical, and outside of a few brief moments, they were definitely the better team. Panarin showed up, the powerplay scored a goal, and Henrik Lundqvist was awesome (outside of the early goal). In all honesty it should have been at least 2-1 after both Howden and Zibanejad were robbed. But, hard to complain about being tied after the first period when you give up a goal in the first 5 minutes. Also, Kappo Kakko was fantastic yet again, and I love him playing alongside Panarin.
Another pretty horrible start to a period as the Canes stacked a few chances together and forced a Brendan Smith high-sticking penalty. It only took 3 seconds on the powerplay for the Hurricanes to bury a one-timer and make it 2-1 Carolina. Only a minute later, the Hurricanes poked another one over Lundqvist after the Rangers failed to clear it. 3-1 Carolina. The teams went back-and-forth for a while with no real sustained pressure. The best chance of this came when Chris Kreider found the puck in the left circle, but he fired a bad shot directly into the pad on Mrazek. The energy that was there in the first period, seemed like it was all but gone in the second. In the minutes that followed, the Rangers held onto the puck, but could not get much going. While Mrazek was sharp, it was the Canes defense that kept the Rangers offense down more than the goaltending. The period remained in somewhat of a stalemate, but yet another defensive zone turnover resulted in a great chance that Lundqvist shut down. The Rangers were finally able to clear the defensive zone, and Filip Chytil found himself in a partial breakaway before he was robbed again by Mrazek. Seconds later, Gauthier won a puck battle and fired a beautiful cross-ice pass to Brendan Smith, but Mrazek made another incredible save sliding to his right. Mrazek was brilliant through the first 40 minutes, robbing the Rangers of at least 4 top-tier scoring opportunities. Just after the horn sounded to end the period, Adam Fox and Tony DeAngelo combined for a small hit on Brady Skjei against the boards. This seemed like a bit of revenge, as it was almost exactly what happened at the end of the first. Needing a spark, this might have been a decent idea by the Rangers defenseman, trying to gain a little jolt of energy for their team heading to the dressing room in what was about to be the most important period of the season. The young blueshirts headed to the locker room desperately needing 2 goals as they tried to tie this series.
The third period started 4-on-4 after the little skirmish to end the second. This was a very good thing for the Rangers as it should’ve resulted in a little more space, something that had been at a premium for the first 5 periods of the series. Ultimately it didn’t result in much other than a little bit of zone time. After a few minutes of nothing, Carolina’s Justin Williams was sent to the box on an interference penalty. It was a pretty weak powerplay all things considered. Kakko had a great chance, but unfortunately his shot was blocked by the sprawling Carolina defender. There just was not a whole lot going well for the Rangers in the first 8 minutes of the period. I expected a lot more energy and a faster pace, but it played very similar to how the rest of the game was played. The Hurricanes seemed content to just sit back and play defense, and the Rangers just could not break it. Time was ticking, and the need for a goal was becoming more and more. After the TV timeout, the Hurricanes made a huge push, but fortunately Lundqvist was sharp and smothered all of Carolina’s chances. As the Rangers tried to set up in the offensive zone, the puck skipped over Ryan Strome’s stick, the Hurricane’s had a two-on-one, and Svechnikov buried it to get his hat trick. 4-1. Tony DeAngelo started a fight with Martinook and was sent off with a 10 minute game misconduct. Julien Gauthier was sent to the box to serve DeAngelo’s extra minor and Carolina had a powerplay already up 3. The Rangers were able to get a couple chances, including one in which they were able to sneak the puck through Mrazek, but the Canes shot it down out of the blue paint. Seconds later, Buchnevich hit the crossbar. It was a pretty good representation of the entire day. A Rangers penalty with about 1:30 left all but ended it. Final score: 4-1 Canes
- Lundqvist actually was not bad. Despite the 4 goals, he made some unbelievable saves and actually kept the Rangers in it. As has happened his entire career, his defense let him down. The amount of defensive zone turnovers has been somewhat ridiculous through the first 2 games and it absolutely has to be cleaned up.
- Is Chris Kreider still hurt? He has done absolutely nothing through the first two games of the series. He either is hurt or is doing the classic Rick Nash where he just disappears in the playoffs.
- Where is the team that led the league in points by D-men? The defense has not done much of anything on the other end. That was such a big part of the Rangers game this season, and you have to wonder where it has been through the last 2 games.
- Kappo Kakko is awesome. He has been far and away the Rangers best player this series. It was easy to worry about him this regular season, as he disappeared at times. It is clear that the break was good for him as he looks like a brand new player.
- The goals need to start dropping. In game one, there were very few chances for the Rangers, today was different. There were quite a few chances, they just could not bury them. On the other side, the Canes buried most of their chances, and that’s why they won the game.