It was the script the Carolina Hurricanes didn’t want to follow again.
Looking for their first road win of the postseason, the Hurricanes had a chance to get ahead early when Sebastian Aho came in alone on a breakaway. Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin stopped him, and it went downhill from there.
New York scored the first three goals to chase Carolina goalie Antti Raanta and cruised to a 5-2 win Saturday at Madison Square Garden, setting up a Game 7 in Raleigh on Monday.
“Game 7s are Game 7s,” Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal said after the loss. “Obviously it’s a big match. We are comfortable there, but we’re going to need everyone. It’s not easy. From the goalie all the way up, everyone is gonna have to show up and be ready to battle.”
Raanta lasted under 24 minutes, allowing a leaky goal to Tyler Motte, guessing wrong on a Mika Zibanejad power play goal and finally getting the hook when Filip Chytil scored 3:24 into the second period. He gave up three goals on 13 shots and was replaced by Pyotr Kochetkov (10 saves).
“I’m not worried about Rants,” captain Jordan Staal said. “He’ll be ready to go.”
Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour briefly hedged when asked if Raanta would start in Game 7 then relented.
“Give me a day to figure it out,” Brind’Amour said, “but yes, he’ll be starting.”
While Staal pointed to the team’s slow start as the reason for its sixth straight road loss during these playoffs, Brind’Amour just didn’t like what came right after the start.
“It wasn’t a bad start because our first few shifts Aho has the breakaway,” Brind’Amour said, “then they come down and get that one. … We got behind again and then that’s where it got tough.”
The Hurricanes were also failed by their special teams again.
After Motte snuck the opening goal through Raanta, the Rangers went on the power play and needed just 36 seconds to score. Zibanejad weaved around Carolina defenseman Brady Skjei and Raanta, expecting a pass, left his five-hole wide open for the goal at 9:51 of the first. It was the fourth straight game Zibanejad has scored.
Carolina’s power play had a chance to halve the lead a few minutes later, but New York killed the Jacob Trouba penalty and had a perfect night, limiting the Hurricanes to just five shots on three power plays. The Rangers later converted a 5-on-3 power play and were 2 of 5 on the night.
“They got a couple power play goals, we didn’t,” Brind’Amour said. “That’s also a difference in the game.”
After Chytil scored his first of two goals at 3:24 of the second to make the score 3-0 and send Raanta to the bench, the Hurricanes twice got within two goals but never closer.
Skjei scored just 101 seconds after Chytil to cut New York’s lead to 3-1. Chytil scored again at 6:47 of the second and was answered by Carolina when Vincent Trocheck scored in front of Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin (37 saves) at 12:47 to make it a 4-2 game heading into the third period.
But Carolina’s penalty woes emerged in the third when the Hurricanes took 12 of their 14 PIMs in the game. That included a four-minute high-sticking penalty to Jaccob Slavin that doubled the two minutes he had in his previous 43 career playoff games.
“The good news is we don’t have to end on that,” Brind’Amour said. “I mean, we got another shot here.”
And the Hurricanes will return to PNC Arena for the deciding Game 7. For as dismal a record Carolina has on the road this postseason, the team is a perfect 7-0 in Raleigh and has outscored its opponents 25-8 on home ice.
“We hope it’s a factor,” Brind’Amour said. “Obviously, it’s been good to us, so we’re counting on it again, for sure.”
Notes: Skjei finished with a goal and an assist for the second two-point playoff game of his career. … Brett Pesce had five blocked shots for the third time in this series. … Seth Jarvis had an assist, led the team in scoring chances (five) and tied for the lead in high-danger scoring chances (three) in all situations, and he also drew two second period penalties. … Trocheck’s goal was his fifth of the postseason, the most among Carolina players.