Arguably the best news coming out of Friday’s match up against the Rangers was the fact that the the Hurricanes are not scheduled to play them again during the 2019-20 season. The 5-2 thrashing on Friday at PNC Arena pushed the Canes record against the Blue Shirts to an unceremonious 0-4.
Though the level of play was maybe not up to quite the same level as the win in Nashville on Tuesday, the Hurricanes again started okay. The game was reasonably even early on with the first turning point in the game coming 12 minutes into the first period. On the first power play of the game, the Hurricanes mustered a series of good chances on four shots on net only to be stymied by rookie goalie Igor Shesterkin. Less than three minutes later while cycling back to fill in at the point, Jordan Staal fired off of a challenging Mika Zibanejad spring him for a breakaway and the game’s first goal. The period was pretty even overall, but the Hurricanes emerged with an unfair 1-0 deficit.
Playing in his 300th game, Brock McGinn scored on a heady, patient play. With the puck on his stick and room/time to chuck a harmless shot at the net from an odd angle, McGinn instead showed patience and navigated open ice right across the top of the circles before finally turning to shoot against and beat a moving Shesterkin. The rest of the second period is mostly about how you want to spin it. On the one hand, the Rangers scored twice on unlucky bounces off of Canes’ defensemen’s skates. Mrazek had no chance and the goals were, to some degree, just bad luck. On the other hand, the first goal occurred when Artemi Panarin stripped Brett Pesce in the defensive zone which sent the Canes into scramble mode. And in general, the Hurricanes mostly got what they deserved in a period in which they were outplayed and out-shot by a wide 19 to 8 margin. The period would end with the Hurricanes down 3-1.
The Rangers tacked on another goal just over a minute into the third period when the Canes defenders lost track of Panarin on the opposite side on a Rangers power play. Panarin made no mistake in staking the Rangers to a 4-1 lead. The Hurricanes would gain some life when Sebastian Aho tapped in some loose change on the power play to get the Hurricanes back to within two goals at 4-2. From that point forward the Hurricanes would intermittently push and then face setbacks. The Hurricanes did have chances to get within a goal, but down the stretch they also took two penalties that seemed to prevent any sustained momentum. The Rangers would seal the deal with an empty-netter to make the final 5-2.
Player and other notes
1) Difference in details
From the aforementioned first period power play until sometime in the third period, the Hurricanes mustered very little in terms of good scoring chances. Even when they had the puck, the Rangers were better at marking players and taking away time and space. The 17 shot block that that the Rangers had were a testament to how difficult it was to get off a good shot. The Hurricanes were not horrible in this regard, a couple miscues did contribute to Rangers goals. The second goal was the result of a defensive zone turnover. The third goal was the result of Justin Williams’ penalty and also missed coverage on the power play.
2) The top line
For the first time maybe since they were put together, the top line was outplayed. Aho did score on the power play, and his line did have 11 shots on net and a few other decent chances, but for the first time in awhile, they were not the best line on the ice. The Rangers top players were better.
3) Shortening the bench
Lucas Wallmark played only 6:07 and Ryan Dzingel on 7:30 as Brind’Amour tried to find a comeback. Aho, Svechnikov and Teravainen played 21:36, 19:28 and 22:23 respectively. Jaccob Slavin played a massive 26:10 in a non-overtime game. With a quick turnaround and another important game tomorrow in Toronto, it will be interesting to see how the players rebound.
4) Time for a short memory
As I noted in a recent article about the upcoming schedule, the Hurricanes will finish the regular season with back-to-back sets with the second game on the road in each of the last seven weekends of the season. The first of those weekends wraps up tomorrow in Toronto. Ideal would be to win the first game and enter the second riding high, but the way the schedule sets up will also force the Canes to be resilient. The first chance for that is tomorrow.
Next up is that quick turnaround and a game in Toronto against the Maple Leafs on Saturday.