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May 6, 2024 5:01 pm

Special teams again at center stage when Rangers, Hurricanes meet

Mika Zibanejad

The New York Rangers were among the NHL’s best power-play teams during the regular season while the Carolina Hurricanes had the league’s best penalty kill in a season when three points separated the teams in the standings.

Only the Rangers lived up to their billing in the opener of the Eastern Conference second-round playoff series, and performances on special teams will be in focus when Game 2 unfolds Tuesday at New York.

The Rangers are attempting to take a commanding series lead before the scene shifts to Carolina. The Hurricanes know a split of games in New York would secure a return trip for Game 5 on May 13.

After opening the series with Sunday’s 4-3 victory, New York is attempting to get a 2-0 lead in a second-round series for the first time since winning the first three against the Washington Capitals in 1994. That was part of a seven-game win streak to open the playoffs en route to a Stanley Cup.

“Playoffs, for me, is completely game to game,” Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said. “We’re going to have to take a look at what we did right, try to bring that back to the table. … We’re going to have to elevate our game as well.”

The Rangers have scored eight power-play goals through five postseason games, second only to Edmonton’s nine goals. In the first period of Game 1, New York needed nine seconds to score one power-play goal and 14 seconds to score another and take a 3-1 lead.

Mika Zibanejad, who is on an 11-game points streak since April 5, scored twice and had an assist. Zibanejad scored New York’s first power-play goal nine seconds into a roughing penalty on defenseman Tony DeAngelo. He also made the pass through the crease for Vincent Trocheck’s fourth goal of the playoffs, 14 seconds into a cross-checking penalty on Evgeny Kuznetsov.

New York scored multiple power-play goals 13 times in the regular season when it was third with a 26.4-percent power-play success rate. So far in the playoffs, the Rangers are 8-for-18 (44.4 percent).

“I thought we were executing, trying to attack,” Zibanejad said. “It’s a really good PK that we’re playing against, so we have to execute, and I thought we did that. It’s something that we’re going to have to keep doing if we’re going to have some success against these guys.”

Carolina went 5-for-20 on the power play against the Islanders in the regular season, but went 0-for-5 in Game 1. The Hurricanes’ 26.9-percent success rate in the regular season was second in the NHL behind the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Carolina also gave up multiple power-play goals for the third straight postseason game against the Rangers thanks to poor defensive coverages on Zibanejad and Trocheck.

The Hurricanes allowed three goals on 11 chances against the Islanders after leading the league in penalty killing at 86.4 percent, marking the second time in three seasons they were the NHL’s top penalty killing team

“There’s different ways of looking at this game,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “For me it was, obviously, we have to get better on the specialty-team area because if we go minus-2 in that area, it’s not going to work.”

The Hurricanes did continue to shine in third periods. After Seth Jarvis and Martin Necas scored in the final 20 minutes, the Hurricanes are outscoring opponents 12-2 in the third period of six playoff games.

“You can’t spot them a couple of goals like that, especially that team,” Carolina’s Jordan Staal said. “I thought we battled hard, got to our game, and whether they were sitting back or we were getting to our game, or a little bit of both, we had a chance to get it. We are going to learn from this.”

–Field Level Media

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