The New York Rangers are Eastern Conference Final bound!
After falling behind 2-0 early in the series, and then again after losing Game 5, the New York Rangers simply weren’t taking no for an answer. They rattled off a huge win in Game 6 on home ice to force a winner-take-all Game 7 and they ran away with it. Igor Shesterkin was simply amazing once again in the crease, and has been the backbone of this team the entire playoffs.
To the surprise of no one, the Hurricanes came out with a few strong shifts to start the game with the home crowd behind them. However, the Rangers were able to weather the storm and turned the momentum in their favor with two straight power play opportunities.
Just as the first power play was seconds from expiring, Alexis Lafrenière transitioned the puck into the offensive zone. He found Adam Fox trailing him as he stepped over the blue line, and left a perfect pass that allowed Fox to step into a shooting lane. A slight head fake by 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 over the glove hand to make it 1-0 Rangers.
A few minutes after scoring on their first power play opportunity, the Rangers went to work once again on the man-advantage. A huge hit from Jacob Trouba on Seth Jarvis caused the Hurricanes to jump on the ice too early as Jarvis crawled to the bench injured. That setup a perfect storm for New York as they had a chance to break open the game with another power play opportunity.
The Rangers’ big guns stepped up in a big way, and Chris Kreider’s eighth goal of the playoffs put the Rangers up by a pair. Mika Zibanejad setup the entire sequence with a great slap-pass from the right faceoff circle and put the puck into open ice for the deflection. Chris Kreider doesn’t miss many of those chances from the front of the net, and he gave the Rangers a crucial two-goal lead in the first period.
The Rangers were able to escape the first period with their two-goal lead intact and they carried their momentum over to the second period. Defense played a huge part in keeping the Hurricanes off of the scoreboard, until the game took quite the turn during the final moments of the period. Antti Raanta went down in a heap of pain after stretching out to make a save, and remained on the ice for some time.
While no one wants to see anyone get injured, the Rangers had a chance to take advantage of the perfect storm. A cold Pyotr Kochetkov entered the game, and was immediately put under pressure by the Rangers in the offensive zone.
Ryan Strome had a prime scoring chance as he cut across the crease, but somehow put the puck into Kochetkov’s pad with the entire net open. Strome had a chance at redemption just a few moments later as the Rangers broke in on a 2-on-1 after a great chip pass from Artemiy Panarin. Strome looked off the pass across the ice to Andrew Copp with Brady Skjei taking away the passing lane, but beat Kochetkov with a perfectly placed shot. The puck sailed right under the goaltender’s arm and Strome’s second goal of the playoffs put the Rangers out in front 3-0.
The Rangers entered the third period in complete control of this game, and had a chance to put the nail firmly in the coffin. Just four minutes into the final frame, Chris Kreider was able to extend the lead once again after a perfect outlet pass by Frank Vatrano to spring him on a breakaway. Kreider was able to fight off the backcheck by Brett Pesce with relative ease and slipped the puck under the crossbar on the far side.
Carolina regained a little life just before the halfway mark of the period as Vincent Trocheck cut the lead to three goals. However, immediately after the ensuing faceoff, Filip Chytil was able to capitalize on a forced turnover at the blue line by Kaapo Kakko. Chytil broke in all alone on Pyotr Kochetkov and wired a shot through his legs to put the Rangers out in front 5-1. Carolina added a late goal from Max Domi before Andrew Copp iced the game with an empty-net goal at the 17:08 mark.
No one outside of New York gave the Rangers a chance against the Hurricanes, and here they are proving people wrong once again. They find a way every single time, and we’ve seen it all year long. Nothing rattles this group. They block out all of the noise and let their play on the ice do the talking. The Rangers now have a chance at redemption after the Tampa Bay Lightning ousted them in the 2015 Eastern Conference Final.
It’s certainly going to be a tall task, as the two-time Stanley Cup Champions will look to make it three in a row. This team has given us hope all season long, so there’s no reason to believe that they can’t overcome yet another challenge.
Why. Not Us.