The New York Rangers are on their way to the Eastern Conference Finals!
After falling 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 pulled off a huge Game 6 victory at home to force a win-win Game 7 and they ran away with it. Igor Shesterkin was just amazing once again in the crease, and was the backbone of this team through all of the playoffs.
To no one’s surprise, the Hurricanes came out with some solid changes to start the game with the home crowd behind them. However, Rangers managed to weather the storm and turned the momentum in their favor with back-to-back power play opportunities.
Just as the first power play was seconds from the end, Alexis Lafrenière pushed the puck into the offensive zone. He found Adam Fox following him as he strode over the blue line and dropped a perfect pass that got Fox into a shooting lane. A slight head fake from Fox sold the pass across the ice at the far post, which opened up a shot lane into the high slot. Fox managed to shoot through partial traffic in front of the net and beat Antti Raanta over the hand of the glove to make it 1-0 for Rangers.
Minutes after scoring on their first power-play chance, the Rangers got back to working on the power play. A huge hit from Jacob Trouba on Seth Jarvis blew the Hurricanes onto the ice too soon as Jarvis crawled to the injured bench. This created a perfect storm for New York as they had the chance to open the game with another power play opportunity.
Rangers’ big guns stepped up in a big way, and Chris Kreider’s eighth playoff goal put Rangers up a pair. Mika Zibanejad set up the whole sequence with a great slap pass from the right faceoff circle and put the puck in the ice for the deflection. Chris Kreider doesn’t miss many of those chances from in front of the net, and he gave Rangers a crucial two-goal lead in the first period.
The Rangers managed to escape from the first period with their two-goal lead intact and they continued their momentum in the second period. Defense played a huge role in keeping the Hurricanes off the scoreboard until the game took a turn in the final moments of the period. Antti Raanta fell in a heap of pain after stretching to make a save and remained on the ice for some time.
Although no one wants to see anyone get hurt, the Rangers were lucky enough to enjoy the perfect storm. A cold Pyotr Kochetkov came on, and was immediately put under pressure by Rangers in the offensive zone.
Ryan Strome had a great scoring chance as he crossed the crease, but somehow put the puck in Kochetkov’s pad with the whole net open. Strome had a chance for redemption moments later as Rangers broke in a 2v1 after an excellent chip pass from Artemiy Panarin. Strome watched the pass across the ice to Andrew Copp with Brady Skjei taking the passing lane, but beat Kochetkov with a perfectly placed shot. The puck sailed just under the goaltender’s arm and Strome’s second playoff goal put the Rangers ahead 3-0.
Rangers entered the third period in full control of this game and had the chance to drive the nail firmly into the coffin. Just four minutes into the last frame, Chris Kreider was able to extend the lead again after a perfect out pass from Frank Vatrano to power him onto a breakaway. Kreider was able to fend off Brett Pesce’s backcheck with relative ease and slid the puck under the crossbar on the other side.
Carolina regained some life just before halftime of the period as Vincent Trocheck cut the lead to three goals. However, immediately after the ensuing face-off, Filip Chytil was able to capitalize on a forced turnover on the blue line by Kaapo Kakko. Chytil burst into Pyotr Kochetkov on his own and fired a shot through his legs to put Rangers ahead 5-1. Carolina added a late goal from Max Domi before Andrew Copp froze the game with an empty-netter at 17:08.
No one outside of New York gave the Rangers a chance against the Hurricanes, and here they are once again proving people wrong. They find a way every time, and we’ve seen it all year. Nothing disturbs this group. They block out all the noise and let their game do the talking on the ice. The Rangers now have a chance to redeem themselves after the Tampa Bay Lightning ousted them in the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals.
It will certainly be a daunting task as the two-time Stanley Cup champions will be looking to make it three in a row. This team has given us hope throughout the season, so there’s no reason to believe that they won’t be able to rise to another challenge.
Why. Not us.