The Rangers Win the Rubber Match in Raleigh Behind a 28-Save Shutout By Shesterkin

The Rangers add to their lead in the Metropolitan Division as the Hurricanes fail to get some good chances into the net in Guentzel's team debut.
New York Rangers v Carolina Hurricanes
New York Rangers v Carolina Hurricanes / Jaylynn Nash/GettyImages
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Riding a three-game win streak after back-to-back wins over New Jersey and Calgary over the weekend, the Carolina Hurricanes began a colossal week by welcoming the New York Rangers into the town for their only visit of the regular season. After splitting the two games at Madison Square Garden, the Canes looked to make up some ground in the division against one of the league's toughest teams.

After being activated off IR earlier in the day, Jake Guentzel suited up for his Hurricanes debut, taking Brendan Lemieux's spot in the lineup. He played alongside the team's other big deadline acquisition, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Martin Necas. Pyotr Kochetkov took the start for the Canes after a great performance in New Jersey on Saturday. The Rangers countered with former Vezina winner Igor Shesterkin. They would be without growing folk legend Matt Rempe, who was suspended for four games after being ejected from their game on Monday for elbowing.

Despite drawing a penalty in the first minute of the game, the Hurricanes were a step behind the Rangers for the entire first period. Most of the period was spent in front of Pyotr Kochetkov. The only ray of sunshine was a successful penalty kill late in the period after Andrei Svechnikov retaliated on Erik Gustafsson after he tried to line him up on a shot. Svechnikov got the better of the exchange, knocking Gustafsson down, but he came back with an extra slash after the fact.

While the start hadn't been ideal to that point, it looked like the Canes were going to escape the period in a scoreless tie. All it took was one bad bounce in the dying seconds to change that. Adam Fox shot one from the boards that hit Brady Skjei's skate and slid between Pyotr Kochetkov's pads with eight seconds left in the period to give the Rangers the lead. It felt like a punch in the gut, but it meant the Canes had 40 minutes to find the answer.

The Hurricanes would complete another penalty kill after Evgeny Kuznetsov was called for tripping early in the second period. From that point, the Hurricanes were in control of the game. After being outshot 11-5 in the first period, the Canes outshot the Rangers in the second by the same margin. Jesper Fast had a golden opportunity that went wide. Kuznetsov had two chances at the top of the crease that were stopped. The Canes had chances, but Igor Shesterkin remained sharp, keeping the Canes off the board after two periods.

The game opened up in the third period for both teams. When the Rangers had a good chance, the Canes turned around and had an equally good scoring opportunity. The stop of the night came courtesy of Pyotr Kochetkov. After Jalen Chatfield looked to have been tripped, Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck brought the puck back the other way 2-on-0. Panarin got the pass over to Trocheck, but Kochetkov went into a split to deny his former teammate.

After that fantastic save, Jake Guentzel had a great chance, hitting the outside of the net instead. The Canes pushed with all of their might to find the tying goal. On this night, the magic wasn't there. Despite the Rangers giving them several chances to set up a play late, nothing was getting past Igor Shesterkin. The final horn sounded as the Rangers held on for a 1-0 win, giving Shesterkin his second shutout in as many starts.

I know the result wasn't there for the Hurricanes, but if this was a measuring stick game for this team, I can't help but be impressed by what I saw from them against the division leader. I didn't think the Rangers were better than the Hurricanes by any stretch of the imagination. If these two are fortunate enough to meet in the second round with the Rangers owning home ice, I'm not going into it thinking the Canes don't stand a chance. The difference in the game was a bad bounce off Brady Skjei's skate, something the Canes couldn't get in their favor against Igor Shesterkin.

Remember at the beginning of the season when the Canes couldn't get a save from any of their goalies to save their lives? Gone are those days. Pyotr Kochetkov was fantastic against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden in January, and he was just as impressive in this one. His saves early in the game on Mika Zibanejad and his flurry of stops early in the third period kept the Canes in this game. He gave his team every chance to get at least a point, and that's all we could ask of him.

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There was plenty to like from Jake Guentzel's debut. His line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Martin Necas had the Canes' best chances all night. Like when Kuznetov made his debut on Saturday, Guentzel hasn't played in a while, so this was him trying to get back into it. I also thought this was Kuznetsov's best game in his short time as a Hurricane. He finished with three shots and a game-high five hits. The Kotkaniemi line was also stellar, getting some good chances of their own early.

Things aren't getting any easier for the Hurricanes this week. Their next battle will be with the Florida Panthers in a rematch of the incredible game they played three weeks ago in Raleigh. The Panthers are certain to want a little revenge. The Canes will then hit the road for three games, beginning on Saturday for Hockey Night in Canada in Toronto.