The New York Rangers came into their game with the Carolina Hurricanes with two goals. They were playing to stay in the hunt for the top spot and to also stay healthy for the playoffs. They did neither. The Canes clinched first place, beating the Rangers 4-3 in a game that was not as close as the score.
The final score really didn’t matter as the likelihood that the Blueshirts were going to pass the Hurricanes were slim. What did matter was that both Artemi Panarin and Andrew Copp left the game in the second period with injuries. The team announced it was a lower body injury for Copp and an upper body injury for Panarin.
Panarin left the game first, 4:52 into the period after playing 1:25 of a power play. Again, there was no evidence of any injury while he was on the ice.
Copp left the ice 7:37 into the second period right after blocking a Brett Pesce shot. He didn’t look like he was in pain so it’s possible he aggravated the lower body injury that kept him out of the game on Saturday.
The good news is that after the game, Gerard Gallant said that both Panarin and Copp could have returned if it was a playoff game.
“They should be fine, being cautious. They told me between periods do you need them back and I said no, I need them next week…If it was next week, one of those games, both of them would have been back.”
When Panarin left the game was scoreless and he had had some dazzling shifts in the first period.
Copp left right after Vincent Trocheck scored to break the scoreless tie. Losing those two players definitely impacted the final score.
The Hurricanes looked like a team with something to play for and after they took the lead they continued to play hard and take the body. It felt like they were trying to send a message to the team that they may face in the second round of the playoffs.
While the game looked out of reach when the score was 4-1 in the third period, the team didn’t give up and got close on goals by Jacob Trouba and with Shesterkin pulled, by Alexis Lafrenière. It was a nice comeback and the fact that they were able to do it without their most gifted forwards reflects well on the team.
Gallant admitted that with second place locked down, it will affect how he deploys his players over the last two games. That means many of the regulars will sit out at least one of the next two games. While the Montreal Canadiens are playing out the string, the Washington Capitals may be playing for third place on Friday.
Henrik Lundqvist had some interesting observations after the game when asked if Shesterkin should play one more game, saying that when he played, he would have preferred to sit out the last two games if the Rangers were going to field half a lineup.
There’s no doubt we will see Alexandar Georgiev against Montreal along with a healthy dose of Gauthier, McKegg et al.
Gallant was asked to reflect on the season. “We’re happy with our team. Things are going well for us. We had a good season, Now the big test is gonna be next week. Looking forward to it. I know we have a team that can play with anybody when we play our game.”