Maybe they do play better with their backs against the wall.
The Rangers faced elimination for the fourth time this season and once again, they rose to the challenge.
Filip Chytil scored twice and Igor Shesterkin made 37 saves as the Rangers beat the Carolina Hurricanes, 5-2 in game six of the Eastern Semis at Madison Square Garden last night.
Rangers won their sixth straight post season game at home, extending their franchise best streak, while the Hurricanes fell to 0-6 on the road.
The Rangers got a huge lift when Barclay Goodrow returned to the lineup. Goodrow, one of the Rangers’ most valuable players, had not played since game one against the Penguins, but he was a welcome sight, particularly on face offs. Despite a 34-22 advantage for Carolina in the dots, Goodrow was 7 of 14 on draws.
Head Coach Gerard Gallant was pleased to see Goodrow back on the ice. “What he’s done the last couple of years with the Stanley Cups. A leader, a character guy on our team. What he does, overall play, kills penalties and the whole works. He’s huge for our club,” he said.
Goodrow’s return caught his teammates by surprise. “I didn’t even know that he’s playing today,” Chytil said after the game. “I just came to the locker room before the game and I saw him getting ready so I was surprised, but I was very happy and I think he made a difference for us in this game
Rangers’ special teams came up big in this one. Blueshirts were 2 for 5 on the power play, while Carolina was 0 for 3.
Gallant felt his team would come out with a much better effort than what they put forth in game five and he was right on the money.
Shesterkin made some huge saves in the first period to keep Carolina off the board. A little over seven minutes into the game, Sebastian Aho was in on a breakaway, but Shesterkin denied one of the Canes best players as the game remained scoreless.
After that save, the Rangers were on the rush and Tyler Motte scored an unassisted goal at 7:22 of the first period for a 1-0 lead. Motte beat Hurricanes goaltender Antii Raanta from the slot for his second goal of the post season.
A little less than two minutes and a half minutes later, a power play goal by Mika Zibanejad gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead.
With Brendan Smith off for a high stick, Zibanejad took the puck just inside the Hurricanes blue line and beat two defenders for a wrist shot from the right faceoff circle that beat Raanta five hole and a two goal lead after one.
In the second period, Chytil was open in the right faceoff circle and fired a wrist shot past Raanta for a 3-0 lead. For Chytil, it was his third goal of the playoffs.
At that point, Raanta was pulled after giving up three goals on 13 shots and was replaced by Pyotr Kochetkov.
Carolina got a goal from former Ranger Brady Skjei to make it 3-1 but less than two minutes later, Chytil scored his second goal of the period and the game to up the lead to 4-1.
Chytil skated out of the left corner boards and shot a backhander past Kochetkov at 6:47 of the second period. The kid line of Chytil, Alexis LaFreniere and Kappo Kakko continue to grow right before our eyes. “They were outstanding. Fil had two great goals going to the net, Laffy played really well and Kappo was solid so that’s what you need from the kids and they played good,” Gallant said.
Vincent Trocheck scored his fifth of the playoffs at 12:47 of the second period to cut the lead to 4-2. The Hurricanes had some momentum but Shesterkin kept them at bay as the Rangers maintained a two goal lead after two periods.
Artemi Panarin gave the Rangers a welcome sight when he scored on a five on three power play to make it a 5-2 game.
With Ian Cole and Trocheck in the box, Panarin was open in the slot and he fired it past Kochetkov for his fourth of the playoffs to close the scoring.
Adam Fox and Shesterkin each had two assists. Fox now has 12 helpers in the post season while the 26-year old goaltender became the fifth goalie in NHL playoff history to have two assists in one game.
The Rangers won their sixth straight post season game at home, a franchise record. The home team has won every game in this series with the games taking on a different tone in each building. Gallant can’t put a finger on it. “The three games in Carolina were different type of games than three games in New York. Why? I don’t know. We open it up a little bit, we get more scoring chances and we also give up a few,” he said.
The Rangers are confident they can snap this road-less streak in game seven.
“We have to play hard, we have to play our game and just don’t focus on any other thing, just focus on the game and I think we can win the game,” Chytil said.