NEW YORK — The New York Rangers defeated the Hurricanes 5-2 in Game 6 on Saturday night, extending Carolina’s playoff road losing streak to six games.
But Game 7 is back in Raleigh on Monday night, where the Hurricanes have won all seven games this postseason — and where they eliminated the Boston Bruins in a seventh game in the first round.
“Being at home has obviously been way better for us,” defenseman Brady Skjei said. “We’re going to try to scrap this game. We obviously did the same exact thing in the first round, with the wins and losses at home and on the road.”
Carolina is 0-6 on the road with a minus-16 goal differential, a 1.67 goals-for average and a 4.33 goals-against average. The Hurricanes are 7-0 at home with a plus-17 goal differential, a 3.57 goals-for average and a 1.14 goals-against average.
That dichotomy extends to goalie Antti Raanta in Game 6, who was pulled from just 3:24 into the second period after giving up three goals on 13 shots. In five road losses, Raanta has an .872 save percentage and a 3.96 goals-against average. In seven home wins, Raanta has a .965 save percentage and a 0.97 goals-against average.
Coach Rod Brind’Amour confirmed that Raanta would start Game 7 for the Hurricanes and is confident that his goalie will move on from the Game 6 flop.
“If you’re going to go down in a game, these are the easy ones to just let go. Once we got behind, we never really got going again. There’s a lot of guys that didn’t play very well,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to shake off a game like that than a game that you’re right in and something bad happens.”
The Rangers took a 1-0 lead on a thrilling sequence at both ends of the ice. Goalie Igor Shesterkin (37 saves) made a save on a Sebastian Aho breakaway and then another on a Teuvo Teravainen follow-up shot. Forward Tyler Motte rushed the other way and sent an unscreened shot from between the tops of the circles that squirted through Raanta for an unassisted goal and the lead at 12:38.
“It wasn’t a bad start. Then they come down and get that one,” Brind’Amour said.
New York extended the lead to 2-0 with another playoff power-play goal. With defenseman Brendan Smith in the box for a high-stick on Alexis Lafreniere, center Mika Zibanejad scored his seventh of the playoffs on a low shot that Raanta could have had. Shesterkin made 15 saves in the first period.
“It didn’t surprise me. I knew we would come out hard and play well,” New York coach Gerard Gallant said.
Raanta was pulled 3:24 into the second period after the Rangers made it 3-0. Center Filip Chytil, who missed on a 2-on-1 chance moments earlier, scored his third of the playoffs on Adam Fox‘s second assist of the game. Kochetkov entered the game, his first action since Game 3 against the Boston Bruins on May 6. Skjei briefly made it interesting with a goal at 5:05 of the second period past a screened Shesterkin. But it was Chytil again on a long-range backhander that beat Kochetkov at 6:47 to re-establish the three-goal lead.
The Hurricanes cut the lead again at 12:47 on a Vincent Trocheck goal, his fifth of the playoffs. They finished the period with momentum, but with a two-goal deficit.
The third period was exactly what the Hurricanes didn’t want, with the majority of it played on special teams. Defenseman Jaccob Slavin took a rare penalty — four minutes for a high-stick on Rangers forward Chris Kreider — just 3:55 into the third. Just over a minute later, Rangers forward Artemi Panarin‘s hooking penalty made it 4-on-4, but that was erased on an Ian Cole interference penalty 1:05 later. Panarin scored his fourth of the playoffs to make it a 5-2 game.
“Tonight was one of those nights where nothing was going our way. Let’s just leave it at that,” Brind’Amour said.
Both teams know that the script has flipped when the action has moved from Madison Square Garden to Raleigh. Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal said that wasn’t in the back of his teammates’ minds during the Game 6 loss.
“No, we came here to win,” he said.
But they didn’t win, which means it’s now down to a one-game series.
“We have to play how we play at home,” Chytil said. “We found a way to win in Pittsburgh (on the road). It’s a Game 7 now. We have to find a way to win the game. I know they have the fans and they have the building that they’re getting used to. We have to play hard and play our game. Just don’t focus on any other thing. I think we can win the game.”