The Rangers suffered a gut wrenching loss, falling 2-1 in overtime to the Hurricanes on Wednesday. After playing a near-perfect 40 minutes and leading 1-0, New York allowed Carolina to dictate pace and control play in the third period. Eventually, the Hurricanes broke through with 2:23 remaining on a goal by Sebastian Aho and won the game in overtime on a tally by Ian Cole, whose shot deflected off Ryan Lindgren into the net. Game 2 is Friday at 8pm.
A few thoughts:
- New York was in position to grab a 1-0 series lead. Now, they have to find a way to regroup. No question, it's a sucker punch to the gut and blow. You go from the possible high of a playoff win and series lead to figure out what happened and why. But the team has been resilient all year long, it's why the mantra is #NoQuitinNY.
The Rangers lost in triple overtime in Game 1 to Pittsburgh and won Game 2. They saw Igor Shsterkin get pulled in Games 3 and 4 and trail 3-1 in the series against the Penguins and found a way to make it to the next round. New York was behind in Games 5, 6 and 7 and found a way to become the first team to rally in three straight elimination games and win the series.
My point is not all is lost and it's no time to jump off the bandwagon. It's a blow, no question and makes the task harder. This is the playoffs, it's supposed to be harder. The statement from Filip Chytil shows me that the team is not bemoaning their fate and know they are far from out of the round.
"We've been in this position, so we just have to keep our heads up," Filip Chytil said. "We got a day off (Thursday). Good practice, good meetings, and just get ready for Friday's game. I think we can take a lot of positives from this game. I think for two-and-a-half periods, we played how we wanted to play, and we dictated that tempo of the game. Unfortunately, they scored a goal, but we have to build on this game and take all the positives to another game."
2) First 40 vs. last 20 minutes
- the first two periods were almost textbook hockey, especially on the road. As Vince NMercogliano noted, the Blueshirts' breakout attempts were much more successful, with their defensemen moving pucks quickly and their forwards playing the north-south game that coach Gerard Gallant preaches. That led to less time spent on defense and fewer scoring chances for Carolina.
Through 40 minutes, they were winning the SOG battle (23-14) and HDCF battle (9-5) to apply ample pressure on Antti Raanta. If there was one negative, it's that they were unable to better capitalize on those chances. Give Raanta credit, but as noted below, the Rangers also deserve some of the "blame"
The first two periods were perfect hockey for us," Gallant said. "We didn't spend a lot of time in our zone, we got pucks out, we had a real good offensive chances. We didn't capitalize on all of them, but I thought it was our best game of the year. I really did."
Then it all turned. We all knew Carolina would make a charge, especially at home. New York aided that charge by backing off, especially at the blue line, allowing the Canes time and space to make plays and get on the forecheck. They attempted 22 shots in the third period, including a breakaway attempt from Nino Niederreiter that went off the crossbar with less than 10 minutes to play, before Aho finally tied the score when the Rangers were caught too far up the ice on a rush chance.
Jacob Trouba and K'Andre Miller had poor communication on that play. First, both were up near the blueline, which is a rarity since the system normally calls to be slightly back. Second,. towards the right side of the ice with no back side protection. After the first shot by Aho, Trouba was unable to recover and Miller was too far away, allowing Aho a second chance, which he converted. Gallant disagreed that they backed off, preferring to credit the Canes, which they also deserve. But New York has a history of going into a third period shell or backing off, so it's hard to agree with his view.
"We didn't sit back, but they made a push," Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. "We talked about it in between periods – continue to play the same way. They put some pucks in there, they had the cycle going and they were desperate. They played real hard, and that's hockey."
3) The Kid Line
- the trio were brilliant, making up for the quasi no-show by the top-six. The fourth line did it's job, but the third unit were by leaps and bounds the team's best. They tallied one goal but could have had four or at worst, at least one more.
As Mercogliano noted, with home-ice advantage and the benefit of last change, coach Rod Brind'Amour kept putting his third line — the defensive-minded trio of Niederreiter, Jordan Staal and former Ranger Jesper Fast — out against the Rangers' top line of Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and Frank Vatrano. That unit, so good during the year, squashed New York's top line, similar to what happened against Pitt in the first five games when all the focus was on shutting down Sidney Crosby.
That decision left Carolina's top-six forwards to log most of their minutes against New York's middle six. On paper, that looks like it would be an advantage for the Canes. But Chytil, Alexis Lafrenière and Kaapo Kakko more than held their own and dominated against their more experienced opponents. The 22-and-under trio would go on to out-shoot Carolina (6-1) and out-chance them (11-3) by lopsided margins, according to Natural Stat Trick.
"We just played our game – just moving feet and playing the way we did the whole first series, and that worked," Chytil said. "We had a lot of good chances. We scored only one, but we can take a lot of positives to another game and build on this game."
Chytil scored the first and lone goal for New York on a beautiful dish from Alexis Lafreniere after a turnover by Tony DeAngelo. Later in the first, Kakko dished to Chytil, who seemingly had a wide-open right side of the net, but Raanta was able to make the pad save. If Chytil lifts the puck, it's a goal. In the second, Lafreniere hit the post. The killer missed opportunity occured in the third. With seven minutes to go, Raanta's save resulted in the puck going to Kakko, who missed the wide open net, shooting it across the screen. Anyone of those goes in and it's likely the game. But the volume of high-quality chances - even though missed - evidence how good that trio was.
is playing through a sprained ankle. He left the game for a bit in the first but came back. Expected him to be limited throughout the playoffs but continue to suit up. Not known for his speed, Lindgren will need to rely on being strong positionally to avoid getting burned wide.
5) Congrats to Gallant
for being named a finalist for the Jack Adams Award. This is his third nomination. He finished second with Florida in 2015-16 and captured the award with Vegas in 2017-18. Gallant looks to become the first Rangers coach in franchise history to receive Jack Adams honors.
KEEP THE FAITH!!!