Smothering Heights: Rangers Dominated by Canes in Game Five Loss

AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker

In the Twilight Zone, it was “Room for One More.” In the neutral zone, it was “No Room for Rangers Any More.”

The Hurricanes put on a defensive clinic as they smothered the Rangers all game long in a dominating 3-1 win in game five. Carolina takes a three games to two lead in the series and can close it out in game six Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

We’ve played a lot of must win games and we’ve done a pretty good job,” Ryan Strome said as the Rangers have no more margin for error in this series.

Simply put, the Rangers had no space to operate as they seemed to be a step slow all night long. Head Coach Gerard Gallant said Carolina dominated but much of the onus was on his team. “We weren’t quick enough, we weren’t strong enough,” Gallant said. “We can make an excuse about them clogging up the neutral zone and all that, but we just didn’t play our game. We weren’t competitive enough tonight.”

Carolina is a totally different team on home ice and it showed early as they broke the scoreless tie with a shorthanded goal in the first period to take a 1-0 lead.

With the Rangers on the power play, Jacob Trouba tried to beat two Carolina players to enter the offensive zone but he was stripped by Jordan Staal, who went the other way on a two on one.

Staal saucered a pass to Vincent Trocheck who was streaking down the right side and he was able to beat Rangers goaltender Igor Shersterkin for the first goal of the game.

Trocheck’s goal was the third shorthanded goal allowed by the Rangers in the playoffs. They only gave up two during the regular season.

Later, Carolina’s Ian Cole was called for cross checking and the Rangers capitalized with the man advantage.

Mika Zibanejad won the offensive zone face off and got the puck back to Adam Fox, who passed it to Artemi Panarin on the right side. Panarin fired cross ice to Zibanejad who one timed the puck past Hurricanes’ goaltender Antii Raanta for his sixth goal of the playoffs that tied the game at one at 17:06 of the first period.

About five minutes into the second period, the Rangers appeared to take the lead on a goal by Ryan Strome, but Andrew Copp was off side. Following a review, the goal was waved off. “Unfortunate, but that’s the way the game is. A rule’s a rule,” Strome said afterwards.

Later in the period, Carolina scored their first power play goal of the series to take a 2-1 lead.

With Frank Vatrano in the penalty box for hooking, Teuvo Teravainen beat Shesterkin from the left face off circle for his fourth goal of the playoffs at 9:47 of the second period and the Canes skated off with a 2-1 lead after two.

In the third, Carolina’s used their relentless forecheck to keep the Rangers pinned in their zone. The Rangers had very few chances to test Raanta as the Hurricanes were on the puck at every turn.

With less than six minutes left in the third, Carolina’s Andrei Svechnikov scored on a breakaway to give the Canes a commanding 3-1 lead. It was the fourth breakaway goal that Shesterkin has given up this post season in seven attempts. The way Carolina was playing defense, a two goal deficit felt like four.

Carolina outshot the Rangers, 34-17, including a 13-7 edge in the third period. Both teams were 1 for 2 on the power play, but the Canes got that crucial shorthanded goal.

Unlike the first two games in Carolina where Gerard said his team played well, that was not the case in game five. “I didn’t think we played our game at all. We were reaching in with the sticks instead of finishing checks with the body like we did the other nights,” Gallant said. “To me, it was the worst game in the five games so far in this series. They pretty well dominated that game tonight.”

So, the Rangers find themselves in a familiar position and will play their fourth elimination game of this post season on Saturday night.

Strome elected to look at the glass half full based on the Rangers’ ability to rebound from tough losses. “It’s a great opportunity for us. We seem to like being in this position a little bit. We put ourselves there a few times before. We’re looking to do what we’ve done before,” he said.

The Rangers have won five straight games at home, while the Hurricanes have yet to win on the road in this post season.

Chris Kreider, who, along with Panarin did not have a shot on goal, put the situation in its proper perspective. “Must win game, game at home,” Kreider said. “Hold serve and give ourselves another opportunity to play better here [in Carolina].”

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