Cary, NC – The Carolina Hurricanes had a forgetful two-game road trip out west, losing to two of the worst teams in the NHL, only to return to the PNC Arena to beat the New York Rangers 4-3 in an exciting game Thursday, March 9, 2017. The Rangers beefed up their team for a deep playoff run and it’s not that they took the Canes lightly, it’s more that the Canes again played to the level of their opponents.
Ranger fans may say they were missing some key players to injuries but so were the Canes and the Canes had four players who started the season in the AHL including, Valentin Zykov, who was playing in his first NHL game.
Skinner, Zykov Score Within Seconds
The Canes started out very strong with the play in the Rangers end for nearly the entire first three minutes getting off several good shots. The Rangers are a thick team; not huge but all are solid, wide and strong on their skates. They won he battles along the boards all night but the Canes are a slippery team; quick on the feet, have the survival ability to sense a hit to avoid and was winning many of the dump and chase plays.
Derek Ryan was battling for the puck in the neutral zone and in an uncharacteristic manner had a high stick to the forehead of Kevin Hayes drawing a four minute minor. With just 45 seconds gone, Elias Lindholm made a good 50:50 hockey play along the far half boards but the refs thought otherwise giving the Rangers a five-on-three.
The Rangers were relentless in front of Ward pummeling him with shot after shot. After a flurry of saves that had Ward all but standing on his head Chris Kreider knock a rebound in over the sprawling goalie. Six minutes later after the Canes putting pressure in the Rangers zone, Victor Rask made a key snag at the blue line keeping the puck in the O-zone. Rask passed down to Jeff Skinner in th low slot then Skinny went around two players, waited, waited, waited then sent a nice back hander top shelf to tie the game.
Just 29 seconds later, Jordan Staal used his strength to win a battle in the corner passing off to Sebastian Aho. Aho sent a pass through the crease that Valentin Zykov, used all of his 224 pounds to out muscle Marc Staal to slide the puck in for his first NHL goal on his third shift in the NHL to put the Canes up 2-1.
Penalties Burn Canes
The Canes are the least penalized team in the NHL but this game was a different story. Early in the period, Rask grabbed the puck in midair and shuffled the puck out of the zone like Derek Jeter shuffling a baseball to start a double play. The Rangers power play took just 19 seconds to score their second powerplay goal.
On a play that had more of a dive than a trip, Ryan Murphy did have his stick in front of Matt Puempel in the neutral zone but Puempel took a stride or two them made a splash in the Canes end. The Rangers once again converted on the powerplay putting the Rangers ahead and for the first time all season saw a team score three PPGs against the Canes.
The powerplays aside, the Rangers were shooting pucks at Ward all night. The Canes forechecking, while scales better than the trip out west, needed further improvement. They were OK in the offensive zone but weak in the defensive zone and almost nonexistent in the neutral zone.
Aho Scores Two Powerplay Goals
The Canes have won four games going into the third and if this was going to be the fifth, a full team effort would be required. The start of the third saw everyone forechecking and skating as if this was an elimination game in the playoffs. The Rangers were also trying to bury the Canes both on the scoreboard and along the boards as their checks were getting harder and several behind the play.
The caches may have reminded the Canes their success comes when they have five skaters on the ice, not when they’re playing man down as the discipline of everyone was much better in the third. The Canes got on a powerplay just under midway in the period when Zykov was tripped as the only way to stop him.
With most of the young guns on the powerplay, Justin Faulk passed over to Teuvo Teravainen who made a sweet backhand swirl pass to Aho at the blue line sending a Howitzer to the goal with kudos to Lindy providing a good screen for a PPG. Three minutes later, with the Canes on another powerplay and the same unit on the ice, Lindy had the puck down low, quickly passed up to Jordan Staal in turn sent a bullet pass cross ice to Aho slamming in the shot for his second of the night and 20th on the season.
The Canes held off the Rangers the rest of the way despite most of the action in the Canes end. Great win, very exciting game especially with so many blue shirts in the stands and it’s not often you see five PPGs in a game.
Next game is Saturday, March 11, 2017 against Toronto and amazing Auston Matthews. Be There!