The New York Rangers are in the Eastern Conference Finals!
After trailing 2-0 early in the series and then losing Game 5 again, the New York Rangers just wouldn’t take no. They pulled off a huge win in Game 6 on home ice to force a winner take-all game in Game 7 and they walked away with it. Igor Shesterkin was once again just incredible in the crease and was the backbone of this team throughout the playoffs.
To no one’s surprise, the Hurricanes came out with some powerful shifts to start the game with the home crowd behind them. However, Rangers weathered the storm and turned the momentum in their favor with two direct power play chances.
Just seconds after the first power play, Alexis Lafrenière steered the puck into the offensive zone. He found Adam Fox behind as he stepped over the blue line and made a perfect pass that allowed Fox to go to a shooting lane. A slight head fake from Fox sold the pass across the ice to the far post and that opened up a shooting lane in the high slot. Fox was able to get his shot through the partial traffic in front of the net and beat Antti Raanta via the glove hand to make it 1-0 for Rangers.
A few minutes after their first power play opportunity, Rangers went into the lead again. A big hit by Jacob Trouba against Seth Jarvis caused the Hurricanes to hit the ice early as Jarvis crawled onto the bench injured. That was a perfect storm for New York as they had a chance to open the game with another powerplay opportunity.
Rangers’ big guns pounded hard, and Chris Kreider’s eighth goal of the playoffs gave Rangers a pair lead. Mika Zibanejad set up the entire sequence with a great slap pass from the faceoff right circle and set the puck on open ice for a distraction. Chris Kreider didn’t miss many of those scoring chances and gave Rangers a two-goal lead in the first period.
Rangers came through the first period with a two-goal lead intact and carried their momentum into the second period. Defense played a big part in keeping the Hurricanes off the scoreboard until the game took quite a turn in the closing moments of the third. Antti Raanta went down in pain after trying to stretch and stayed on the ice for a while.
While no one wants to see anyone get hurt, Rangers had the chance to capitalize on the perfect storm. A cold Pyotr Kochetkov came on and was immediately pressured by Rangers in the offensive zone.
Ryan Strome had a prime scoring opportunity running over the crease but somehow he put the puck all open net into Kochetkov’s block. Strome had a chance to redeem himself just moments later as Rangers broke with a 2-on-1 after a great chip pass from Artemiy Panarin. Strome looked from the pass across the ice to Andrew Copp while Brady took the fast lane away from Skjei but defeated Kochetkov with a perfectly placed shot. The puck sailed right under the keeper’s arm and Strome’s second goal of the playoffs gave Rangers a 3-0 lead.
Going into the third period in complete control of this game, Rangers had a chance to nail the nail firmly in the coffin. Just four minutes after the last frame, Chris Kreider was able to extend the lead again after a perfect pass from Frank Vatrano to the breakaway. Kreider was able to fend off Brett Pesce’s back check relatively easily and pushed the puck under the bar on the other side.
Carolina regained momentum just before halftime in the third when Vincent Trocheck cut the lead to three goals. Immediately after the ensuing face-off, however, Filip Chytil was able to capitalize on a forced turnover at Kaapo Kakko’s blue line. Chytil broke in all alone against Pyotr Kochetkov and cabled a shot through his legs to give Rangers a 5-1 lead. Carolina added a late goal from Max Domi before Andrew Copp closed the game with an empty goal at the 17:08 mark.
No one outside of New York gave the Rangers a chance against the Hurricanes, and here they are once again proving people wrong. They always find a way, and we’ve seen it all year long. Nothing fazes this group. They block out all noise and let their game do the talking on the ice. The Rangers now have a shot at making amends after the Tampa Bay Lightning ousted them in the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals.
It will certainly be a tall order as the two-time Stanley Cup champion will be looking to get third in a row. This team has given us hope all season, so there’s no reason to think they can’t handle another challenge.
Why. Not us.