The Carolina Hurricanes skated into Madison Square Garden on Thursday night to face one of the hottest teams in the league. Putting their three-game win streak on the line, the Canes had an enormous task in front of them. In a building they historically struggle in, this was destined to be one of the toughest tests of the early season.
The personnel for the Hurricanes remained the same from their win in Philadelphia on Monday, with Frederik Andersen back in the net. The only minor change saw Andrei Svechnikov moving up the lineup while Martin Necas started the game with the fourth line.
The Rangers came out of the gates on fire. They drew an early penalty and capitalized on it. After the Canes were caught with too many men on the ice, Artemi Panarin fed Chris Kreider at the side of the net with an incredible backhand pass to get New York ahead less than three minutes into the contest. The Rangers earned another power play before the first commercial break, and while Panarin hit the post, the Canes killed it.
Carolina didn’t record a shot until over nine minutes into the game. Fortunately, their second shot found the back of the net. New York was assessed a too-many-men penalty, and the Canes needed 21 seconds to convert. Sebastian Aho looked off the defense, feeding Seth Jarvis with a stretch pass to get him into the zone on a breakaway. Jarvis put the shot over the glove of Igor Shesterkin to knot things up. The Canes killed one more penalty at the end of the first period, sending the game into the first intermission tied at one.
There was a lot of back and forth in the second period, though the Hurricanes owned a sizable edge in shots. Frederik Andersen made a few big saves, his best coming against Alexis Lafreniere in transition. Jaccob Slavin also made a patented defensive gem, legally denying Blake Wheeler before he could get a shot on the net. Both teams had power plays in the period, and both were killed as we finished in the same spot once the horn sounded for the break.
As we expected all night, this game would come down to one play. That play came midway through the third period, and it went in the Rangers’ favor. After Jacob Trouba kept the puck in the zone, two bad things happened for the Hurricanes. First, Tony DeAngelo drifted, allowing Trouba all the time in the world to make a pass. Second, Seth Jarvis couldn’t get down to block Trouba’s pass to Will Cuylle fast enough. With no hesitation, Cuylle slid the puck past Frederik Andersen to put the Rangers back ahead. That would be all she wrote as Igor Shesterkin kicked out any last-ditch effort from the Canes to keep their win streak going.
Both fanbases were heated during and after this game. The universal agreement was this wasn’t a well-officiated game, though both teams have varying reasons as to why. Among other things, Canes fans were upset about the icing call in the final 30 seconds that was called off, allowing the Rangers to kill more time.
Rangers fans had a laundry list of complaints. Despite a 5-2 edge in power plays, many felt the referees missed a few high-sticking penalties against the Canes. There were two that I could think of off the top of my head. The first was a Brady Skjei follow-through, which was a legal play, and the second was on Martin Necas in the Canes’ offensive zone with Barclay Goodrow on his knees, which also isn’t a penalty. I’m not sure why we all can’t accept every penalty isn’t going to be called because if it were up to the fans, we wouldn’t ever play 5-on-5.
Another big talking point after the game was a play in the first period involving Sebastian Aho and Adam Fox. Just over 12 minutes into the game, there was a collision between the two stars, resulting in Fox missing the rest of the game, causing a great debate online over who stuck out their leg, Aho or Fox? I can’t provide an unbiased opinion on the issue, though I struggle to understand why either would purposefully do it. The truth is, I think it was a freak accident. Aho doesn’t have a reputation for intentionally hurting players, so accusing him of doing it with intent to injure is laughable.
Regardless of your stance on the referees, the Hurricanes lost, and officiating wasn’t the cause. They only scored one goal, which isn’t enough to win on most nights in the NHL. They played a great road game. Unfortunately, it wasn’t good enough to beat the Rangers. The good news is there are 71 games left, including two more against the Rangers. The team is starting to look much better. The road-heavy schedule early in the season will even out in the coming weeks.
If this version of Frederik Andersen continues to show up, this team could be going places. The defense overall was outstanding, including the penalty kill going 4-for-5 against a lethal power play. It was two tough breakdowns that allowed the Rangers to score. It was enough to sink the Hurricanes in this one, but that’s just one game.
The Hurricanes will remain in New York for one more game, traveling to Long Island for a matchup with the Islanders on Saturday night. After that, the Hurricanes will return home on Tuesday night against the Buffalo Sabres before a weekend back-to-back on the road against Florida and Tampa Bay. Once the Canes get through that weekend, six of their final seven games in November are at PNC Arena.