RALEIGH, NC — The Rangers are headed back to New York trailing two games to none in their second-round series against the Hurricanes.
Between their stagnant offense, power-play struggles and slim contributions from their top guns, the Rangers didn’t do much to counter the limited offense the Hurricanes generated, and ultimately lost 2-0 in Game 2 Friday night at PNC Arena in front of a much rowdier crowd than at the series opener.
The Hurricanes haven’t even come close to their top form in these two games, and that’s partially due to the Rangers. But the Rangers have to be at their best to beat Carolina, and that hasn’t come through this series, either.
Even when the Hurricanes aren’t able to play to their usual relentless forecheck or generate high shot totals, what they have put on the ice still has proven to be enough to defeat a Rangers team that is not clicking on offense. The Rangers’ most recent goal in this series came at 7:07 in the first period of Game 1.
While the Kid Line of Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko has been the story of the playoffs for the Rangers, the lack of contributions from their top six has been detrimental.
The Rangers’ notable stats of the night were as follows:
Chris Kreider: four minutes in the penalty box, one giveaway and zero shots on goal. Artemi Panarin: three giveaways and zero shots on goal. Mika Zibanejad: two shots on goal and one giveaway. Ryan Strome: one shot on goal. Frank Vatrano: two shots on goal and one giveaway. Andrew Copp: zero shots on goal.
It was impossible for the Rangers to get anything going offensively while they’re in and out of the penalty box all night. The Hurricanes took the same amount of penalties as the Rangers, but they were much more productive with their shorthanded time and while on the power play.
Carolina finished the regular season with the top penalty-kill percentage in the NHL at 88 percent, and that skill was on full display in their victory.
After former Blueshirt Brady Skjei was called for a four-minute high-sticking penalty that drew blood from Lafreniere, the Hurricanes took advantage of an out-of-whack Rangers power play. Sebastian Aho fed another ex-Ranger, Brendan Smith, on a shorthanded rush for a one-timer that put the Hurricanes on the board at 15:54 of the second period.
Aho added to empty-netter in the final seconds of the third period.
Carolina had switched up its lines in the third period of the Game 1 overtime win, so Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour went with the same configuration for Game 2. The Rangers started the same way as they have the last four games this postseason, but head coach Gerard Gallant switched things up at the end of the second period Friday night to try sparking something within his team.
Gallant flipped Lafreniere to the second line and bumped Copp down to the third unit. He also moved Kakko to the top line with Zibanejad and Kreider at one point, and also used a makeshift unit that featured Kevin Rooney, Copp and Vatrano. But none of that had the effect Gallant presumably wanted it to.
After there were just two penalties called in the series opener, Game 2 was significantly nastier, with six infractions committed in the first period alone on the way to 10 in total.
In addition to three four-on-four stretches, the Rangers also had one four-on-three advantage for 49 seconds and 6:49 at five-on-four to make for 7:38 of power-play time they couldn’t capitalize on.