The home versus road roller coaster continued for the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night back at PNC Arena in Raleigh. As much as the two losses in New York suggested that the Canes have issues playing away from home, Thursday reinforced the fact that the opposite is true at home.
The Hurricanes started the game playing even or better in terms of puck possession and offensive zone time. But an unnecessary offensive zone penalty by Andrei Svechnikov nearly midway through the first period had the potential to derail a good start. But after a strong penalty kill, things got even better in the waning seconds of the penalty kill when Jordan Staal and Vincent Trocheck hopped out to a 2-on-1 rush while shorthanded. Staal fed Trocheck who skillfully managed to finish a pass on a bounce to give the Canes a 1-0 lead. But another unnecessary penalty by Ian Cole in the neutral zone gave the Rangers a second chance on the power play. (No doubt Trouba flopped dramatically, but Cole offering even a small crosscheck took an unnecessary risk that cost the Canes.) Shortly into the power play Mika Zibanejad ripped a shot by Raanta to tie the game at 1-1. The Canes maybe deserved better in the first period, but Shesterkin made a couple great saves and the special teams deficit evened the game.
But the Canes level of play ramped as the game went on. The second period was easily one of the team’s best of the playoffs. The Canes netted only a single goal on a Teuvo Teravainen power play snipe on a Seth Jarvis pass, but could have had more. The good guys had the ice tilted downhill into the Rangers end for much of the period. After outshooting the Rangers 11 to 5 in the first period, the Canes outshot the Rangers 10 to 5 in the second period. A disallowed Rangers goal because of an offsides was part of the equation for emerging with a 2-1 lead after two periods.
The third period was more of the same. Even with a lead, the Canes kept the pedal down even playing a bit more conservatively and were again the better team in the third period. An Andrei Svechnikov breakaway finish at the 13:01 mark put the Canes up 3-1 which would be the final. Even with the Rangers pushing to try to get back into the game, the Canes outshot the Rangers 13 to 7 in the third period.
Who knows if or when the Canes will exorcise the road demons, but one has to like the chances of the Canes winning a game 7 at home on Memorial Day if the series comes to that.
Player and other notes
1) Sebastian Aho
Despite not cracking the score sheet, Aho had a strong night. His near misses off the post and crossbar had him really close to a big two-goal game.sbar he was really close.
2) Andrei Svechnikov
Hopefully the pretty breakaway finish gets him going. Past the goal Svechnikov’s game was ‘meh’ or worse. He had a bad ‘hope’ (someone is there) turnover feeding the puck up the middle of the ice in the defensive zone. He took the offensive zone penalty in the first period. And at times, he seems to have a case of the yips with his hands/confidence right now moving, receiving or shooting the puck. Half full says that if Svechnikov finds his game, the Canes find a higher gear.
3) Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce
Good for Brett Pesce getting the third star. His bread and butter strong defensive game is not usually recognized that way. He and Slavin anchoring the top two defensive pairings were incredibly good on Thursday. Slavin must have pickpocketed five Rangers defending one on one. And Pesce was similarly stalwart defending all night.
Zibanejad did score on the power play, but Staal’s line again shut down Zibanejad and Kreider at even strength. The recipe is simple but nearly in fallible – Staal’s generally won puck possession on the face-off or otherwise, pushed the puck deep into the offensive zone and generally forced the Rangers top to line to spend most of their night playing defense or fighting for pucks on the wall nearly 200 feet from the net they needed to shoot at.
5) Playing with house money on Saturday
Knowing that game 7 is at home, the Canes get a chance with house money to close out the series in six games with a win on Saturday. It is just a hunch, but I think the Canes win on Saturday in New York. If the Canes score first, the pressure mounts for the Rangers. I also think that the five-game road losing streak will have the Canes amped up and ready to grind out a win with hard work on Saturday.
But if not, the Canes enter game 7 in Raleigh with a seven-game home winning streak.
Next up is a Saturday tilt at Madison Square Garden.