Carolina Hurricanes hand New York Rangers 1st playoff loss

Carolina Hurricanes hand New York Rangers 1st playoff loss
Carolina Hurricanes hand New York Rangers 1st playoff loss

RALEIGH, NC — The Carolina Hurricanes turned their last stand into a season-extending victory — and it was the struggling power play that got them there.

Brady Skjei scored on a power play with 3:11 left to help the Hurricanes beat the New York Rangers 4-3 on Saturday night, saving off a sweep by winning Game 4 of the second-round playoff series.

Skjei’s shot from the point came off a feed from Teuvo Teravainen, with the puck zipping past Igor Shesterkin to catch the upper-right corner of the goal and bang into the net. That was Carolina’s first goal with the man advantage in 17 tries in the series, and it finally pushed Carolina ahead for good on one night when the Hurricanes squandered a two-goal lead.

No matter, though. The Hurricanes survived to fight another day in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“I don’t care,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said of whether there was extra significance to getting the winner with the man advantage. “Not tonight. We’ve just got to get W’s at this time of year.”

The Rangers will get another closeout chance Monday night with the 3-1 lead when the series returns to Madison Square Garden for Game 5.

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Stefan Noesen and Sebastian Aho each scored for Carolina, while Frederik Andersen finished with 22 saves as the Hurricanes try to become the fifth team to rally from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series and the first since 2014.

Everything started with Carolina showing plenty of jump in the first period, running out to 2-0 and 3-1 leads to build momentum.

“Obviously, we played a lot of aggression,” said Aho, who finished a feed from Jake Guentzel from near the slot for a 3-1 lead with 4:31 left in the first period. “We kind of did what we needed to do. That was a strong start. We want to do that again [in Game 5].”

The Hurricanes tweaked their power-play unit to put Skjei on the top group. And roughly 30 seconds after a tripping penalty by Ryan Lindgren, Skjei converted the winner to send Teravainen and Aho rushing over to hug him and have a tense home crowd roaring in gleeful relief, even if Skjei experienced “definitely celebrating” instead.

“I feel like going into every game, you try to feel confident and feel you can be the guy to do it,” Skjei said. “Obviously, it doesn’t happen every night or that often. But that’s kind of our mindset going forward here, just win the day.”

Will Cuylle, Barclay Goodrow and Alexis Lafreniere scored for the Rangers, while Shesterkin finished with 27 saves.

“It’s tough, we dug ourselves a hole early,” Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said. “I don’t think it was because we weren’t ready to play. … We’ve got to come out a little bit sharper than that.

“We were competing, we were working, we were trying to do our job offensively. But there’s some things defensively that I thought we could’ve been a little bit better in the first period.”

New York had won its first seven playoff games after sweeping the Washington Capitals in Round 1 and taking the first three of this series. The Rangers had a chance to become the first team to reach 8-0 in a postseason since the Edmonton Oilers won their first nine games on the way to claiming the Stanley Cup in 1985.

Lafreniere had the Rangers within reach of that when he capitalized on a mistake by Andersen, who let his left skate extend past the post as Lafreniere skated in on the right side. As he skated toward the boards, Lafreniere bounced the puck off Andersen’s left hip then into the net for a 3-3 tie at 2:04 of the third period that deflated the home crowd.

The series began with the potential for heavy drama considering the Metropolitan Division-winning Rangers also won the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top regular-season team, while the Hurricanes — in the playoffs for the sixth straight season — finished three points behind .

Tight finishes have continued in this series, with the Rangers winning 4-3 in both Games 1 and 2 — the latter in double overtime — then taking Game 3 in Raleigh on Artemi Panarin’s OT score for the 3-2 decision. But the Rangers had been winning the special teams battle in a landslide, outscoring the Hurricanes 5-0 with four power-play goals and a short-handed score, while Carolina’s No. 2-ranked regular-season power play entered Saturday at 0- for-15 in the series.

Carolina came up empty on its first power play Saturday, but Skjei finally gave the Hurricanes a desperately needed breakthrough.

“I thought the penalty kill was still good,” Laviolette said. “They took a shot from the point, he hammered it, it had eyes. It was a tough corner shot, traffic in front of the net. There was a lot going on there.”

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