After rattling off two straight wins, the Rangers were defeated 4-3 by the Carolina Hurricanes this evening. A controversial call wound up being the turning point in this game, but to the Rangers own fault, they never truly responded after the tying goal in the third period.
Early in this game, the Rangers were presented with a huge opportunity as the Hurricanes took a pair of minor penalties. The first came courtesy of Derek Ryan, who was given a double minor for high sticking, followed by another tripping minor for Elias Lindholm. That gave the Rangers an extended two-man advantage, which they partially took advantage of.
Nearing the end of the first minor, the Rangers were able to create a mad scramble in front of the net, and eventually took the early 1-0 lead. After the initial shot went wide, Derek Stepan quickly pounced on the puck and fed Chris Kreider all alone in front of the net. Cam Ward was still re-positioning himself after the early flurry of shots, and never got back in time to make a save on Kreider.
Following the goal, the Rangers continued their strong play in the offense zone but weren’t able to get anything else past Ward. Unfortunately, the tables turned later on in the period when Jeff Skinner capitalized on a costly turnover at the blue line. Kevin Hayes was unable to clear the puck, and Viktor Rask was able to find Skinner in behind the Rangers defensemen.
A quick move to his backhand, and Skinner had evened up the score. The Hurricanes wound up cashing in again just 29 seconds later, after Valentin Zykov notched his first career goal off of a rebound to the side of the net. Antti Raanta cleared away the initial shot, by Zykov outworked both Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal to convert on the rebound.
Even though the Rangers were the stronger team in the first period, their turnovers proved to be costly and they found themselves down by a goal after 20 minutes. Despite trailing, the Rangers didn’t let that affect them and they jumped right back into the game at the 7:16 mark of the second period. The Rangers picked up their second power play goal of the evening, following a tap in from Mika Zibanejad off to the right side of Cam Ward.
Much like in the first period, the Rangers picked up their pace quite a bit following the goal and continued to test Cam Ward. The Rangers did have two more power play opportunities in the period, and they were able to convert on one of the two nearing the end of the period. Mika Zibanejad picked up his second goal of the evening and was in the right place at the right time to intercept Jay McClement’s clearing attempt.
Zibanejad was able to knock the puck down and quickly beat Cam Ward with a spin-around wrist shot in the high slot. For those of you counting at home, the Rangers power play was operating at 50% (3-for-6) following 40 minutes of play, which will certainly get some confidence flowing throughout the special team units.
With the Rangers playing their third game in four nights, the fatigue certainly caught up to them in the third period. The Hurricanes came out absolutely flying during the final 20 minutes, which forced Antti Raanta into action and he made several big saves to open the period. The Rangers certainly weren’t helping their cause either, as Nick Holden was whistled down a few moments later for tripping Zykov in the Rangers’ end.
Unfortunately, the Hurricanes wound up scoring on the ensuing power play, but it didn’t come without some controversy. Antti Raanta immediately questioned the goal after there appeared to be some contact in the crease. The replay clearly showed that Elias Lindholm’s elbow made contact with Raanta’s mask, which in turn pushed the mask up over his face.
I don’t know about you all, but I think it’d be pretty hard to make a save if you can’t see the puck coming your way at all. Not only that, but the NHL’s stance on the matter was that Raanta initiated the contact AND was outside of the crease. Neither of those were true based on the replay, but the Rangers somehow lost the challenge and the Hurricanes tied the game at three.
That controversial call clearly energized the Hurricanes, and the were able to able to find another goal a few minutes later. Sebastian Aho scored his second of the night after receiving a beautiful pass from Jordan Staal, and he buried it past Antti Raanta. Suddenly, the Rangers found themselves down by a goal again and the wheels were quickly falling off of this game.
The Rangers were unable to find any sort of response during the closing minutes of this game. But hey, Alain Vigneault did bench Pavel Buchnevich down by a goal in crunch time, and replaced him with none other than Tanner Glass. Following tonight’s loss, the Rangers will have two days of rest before returning to action on Sunday night in Detroit.