Trocheck’s 2OT winner sinks Hurricanes

Rangers left wings Chris Kreider (20) and defenseman Adam Fox (23) react to center Vincent Trocheck’s (16) game-winning goal in the second overtime of Game 2 of their series against the Hurricanes on in New York. The Rangers won 4-3. (Julia Nikhinson / AP Photo)

NEW YORK — There have been plenty of big prizefights at Madison Square Garden over the years, and the Eastern Conference’s two heavyweights traded blows for much of Tuesday’s Game 2.

The Hurricanes suffered an all-too-familiar gut punch.

Vincent Trocheck — who saw his stint with the Hurricanes end two years ago in a seven-game loss to the Rangers — scored on the power play at 7:24 of the second overtime to give New York a 4-3 win and a 2-0 series lead over Carolina in the teams’ second round matchup.

“I couldn’t tell you what happened,” Trocheck said of his winning goal. “It went in.”

The Rangers again exploited the Hurricanes’ league-best special teams, scoring twice on the power to improve to 4 of 9 for the series and killing all five of Carolina’s power plays. The Hurricanes have not scored in 10 power plays in the series.

“Everyone in the room knows our special teams have gotta be better and will get better, and we’ll find a way to turn the tide in the series,” Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal said after the loss.

The Game 2 loss felt oh-too-similar to Carolina’s recent postseason failings. Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin made 54 saves, the fourth straight time Carolina has registered 50-plus shots in a playoff game and lost. The special teams again fell apart. And the Hurricanes again proved they’re unable to find a way to win a lengthy overtime game.

Carolina is now 1-6 under coach Rod Brind’Amour when games go beyond a first overtime, with the only win coming on Brock McGinn’s Game 7 goal against the Capitals in 2019.

Brind’Amour shortened his bench starting in the third period, with Max Comtois — making both his Hurricanes and NHL playoff debut in place of Evgeny Kuznetsov — playing just one shift in the third period and not at all in overtime. Stefan Noesen got just three shifts after the second period, two of which came on Carolina’s two power play opportunities in the overtimes. Jesperi Kotkaniemi played five total shifts in the last 42 minutes of the game.

“Yeah, it’s not ideal, but they were kind of doing the same thing,” Brind’Amour said of essentially going down to nine forwards. “I thought the flow was good and our guys looked fresh, so that really wasn’t a concern.

“As that last period was starting to go I was going to start using everyone, I can tell, but I really liked the 5-on-5 game. And they didn’t look tired on the ice.”

The Hurricanes looked tired — or rather, weary — following the loss. They again find themselves in a two-game hole, a fate they suffered in last year’s Eastern Conference final before being swept by the Panthers. All four of those losses were by one goal — the same as the first two in this series.

“We know what we have to do to win,” Brind’Amour said. “So we’re gonna have to just find a way to do that. You can draw on anything you want, but at the end of the day, the guys, they know. They believe in there.

“They’re the ones playing the game, but I think they understand what we’ve got to do, and I think they feel capable of it.”

The Rangers opened the scoring for the second straight game when K’Andre Miller’s point shot was blocked by Kotkaniemi and the puck went right to Alexis Lafreniere, who shot over the shoulder of Hurricanes goalie Frederik Andersen (35 saves) to give New York a 1-0 lead at 10:53 of the first.

The Hurricanes pushed back, scoring twice in under five minutes to take the lead at the first intermission.

After Jake Guentzel and Andrei Svechnikov cycled below the goal line, Svechnikov curled around the net and backhanded a pass to Sebastian Aho at the point. Aho’s shot was redirected in front by Guentzel, giving him his first 5-on-5 goal since April 9 in Boston.

Then with the teams playing at 4-on-4 after matching penalties, Dmitry Orlov snuck behind Rangers defenseman Adam Fox and tipped a Brady Skjei shot to give Carolina its first lead of the series with just over five seconds left in the first period.

Lafreniere and Guetnzel traded goals in the second period — each getting their second goals of the game and series — and Chris Kreider’s power play goal at 6:07 of the third period tied the game.

But Carolina’s power play came up short again and again. The Hurricanes mustered just two shots on net during their two overtime power plays, and the Rangers’ ability to convert their chances has been the difference in the series.

“We’ve got to definitely be sharper, and we’ve got to get inside,” Brind’Amour said of the power play. “We were all on the outside, and that’s just not how we do it anyway. So we’ve gotta get back to doing it the way we know how to.”

And they need to do it soon.

“I mean, we’re right there,” Guentzel said. “It’s a small margin for error in the playoffs, and we’ve gotta buckle down on the power play and find a way to get one there.”

The Hurricanes will also need to get one win at home if they want to make a return trip to Madison Square Garden for Monday’s Game 5.

Otherwise, the damage from a knockout punch could have bigger repercussions than simply ending the team’s season.

Notes: Aho had three assists and now had five in the first two games of the series. … Teuvo Teravainen had a season-high six shots on goal and was on the ice for 22 5-on-5 shots for and just two against. … Defenseman Jaccob Slavin led the Hurricanes with 32:34 of ice time, while Trocheck led all skaters with 35:21.