Kreider's Third-Period Hat Trick Ruins the Night, Ending the Canes' Season in Game 6

The Hurricanes blow a 3-1 lead, failing to take advantage of big chances before New York scores four unanswered to win the game and the series in six games.
New York Rangers v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Six
New York Rangers v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Six / Grant Halverson/GettyImages

For the second straight game, the Carolina Hurricanes found a way to extend their season on Monday. This time, they went into Madison Square Garden and handled their business. After allowing a short-handed goal in the second period to Jacob Trouba, the Canes scored four unanswered goals in the third to win the game 4-1 and send the series back to Raleigh for Game 6. With the home crowd behind them, the objective was to win the day again on Thursday.

With the extra day of rest between games, Frederik Andersen was expected to be well-rested ahead of this game. He was good in Game 5, making 20 stops to earn his second straight win. Igor Shesterkin was looking to get back into the win column after dropping consecutive games. While he wasn't solely to blame for Monday's loss, Shesterkin wasn't on his game in the third period, allowing three goals on 27 shots.

While the Rangers owned the territorial game in the first period, the bulk of the good chances belonged to the Hurricanes. New York spent a ton of time in the Canes' zone but were kept to the outside. The Canes threw what they could at Igor Shesterkin, eventually breaking through late. Jordan Martinook made an incredible pass from below the goal line to Martin Necas, who lifted one past Shesterkin with less than 90 seconds left in the frame to get the Canes into the break with a 1-0 lead.

The beginning of the second period was a little scary, with Jordan Martinook taking a high-sticking penalty, but a penalty from Chris Kreider wiped it out less than a minute later, eventually leading to the Canes' first power play of the night. As if by magic, the power play made it 2-0. Andrei Svechnikov's pass was tipped by Sebastian Aho through Igor Shesterkin's pads and sat in the crease for Seth Jarvis to bang home.

The Rangers swiftly answered with Vincent Trocheck redirecting a shot past Frederik Andersen 51 seconds later to cut into the Canes' lead. Fortunately, the Hurricanes would get it back less than four minutes later. Andrei Svechnikov tipped Jaccob Slavin's clearing pass to create a 2-on-1. Sebastian Aho knew he was shooting the entire time, snapping the puck over Igor Shesterkin's glove to restore the two-goal lead, where things would stand after 40 minutes.

Unfortunately, this is when the fun would end for the Hurricanes. The third period was all about Chris Kreider. It began with Frederik Andersen allowing another weak goal, failing to cover the puck before Kreider was able to poke it through the tiniest of holes to make it a 3-2 game. Just over four minutes later, Kreider tipped Artemi Panarin's shot on the power play, tying the game at three. To complete the hat trick, Kreider finished a pass from Ryan Lindgren at the side of the net to give New York its first lead of the night. Barclay Goodrow's empty-net goal would be the dagger, helping the Rangers advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The final game of the season is always tough. It's especially tough for playoff teams because you never truly know when the final game is going to be. Through 40 minutes on Thursday night, it felt like we were going to get a Game 7 in New York on Saturday. That all came crumbling down in the third period. The Rangers' stars finally woke up and started to produce after a dormant two games. The Hurricanes couldn't find the answer.

It's almost fitting that this is how the Hurricanes went out. While I wouldn't say they lost the special teams battle in Game 6, the penalty kill allowed a costly goal midway through the period, allowing the Rangers to knot the game. When the game was still 3-1, the Canes had all the chances in the world to extend the lead. Jordan Martinook hit the crossbar, and Jake Guentzel rang the left post. Even after the Rangers made it 3-2, Sebastian Aho missed wide on a breakaway, and Jordan Staal was robbed on a chance at the front of the net. If any of these had gone in, we're likely talking about a different result.

The ultimate difference in the series was in the net. Even after a tough start to this game, Igor Shesterkin rebounded in the third period, completely reversing his performance from Monday. His aforementioned stop on the Canes' captain in the third period saved the game. On the other end, even if you can't put two of the three Kreider goals on Frederik Andersen, the one that sparked the comeback was indicative of his entire series. It was always the one bad goal that ruined his starts. He looked shaky at times all night. This loss isn't solely on him, but he didn't perform when the team needed him the most.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how well the top line played in the series. With multi-point games for Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov in Game 6, the top line combined to score 20 points in the six-game series, led by Aho's series-high nine points. I also thought the Drury line had an excellent night. Jordan Martinook had an assist, a crossbar, and one of the best defensive plays of the season after saving a goal in the second period.

In the end, the Hurricanes dug themselves into an incredibly deep hole by losing the first three games by one goal, and they weren't able to get out of it. They fought until the end, but there's a reason why only four teams have ever come back from a 3-0 deficit. It's a very tough task to pull off. The fact that they fought valiantly won't be enough for some, and I respect that. I'd argue the better team won the series, and it wasn't the Carolina Hurricanes.