Takeaways, as Rangers blow lead in devastating 3-2 loss to first-place Hurricanes


For 49:49 in the front end of this home-home, it looked like a fourth-line goal and a herculean performance from Igor Shesterkin would be enough for the New. York Rangers to steal one against the Carolina Hurricanes(46-15-8,100 pts), which would close the gap between the two in the Metropolitan Division standings

Then, a sudden strike from Jalen Chatfield snapped Igor’s shutout streak at 120:40 and the Rangers’ streak at 180:40, ultimately opening the floodgates, which resulted in a late redirection from Teuvo Teravainen and a 3-2 Canes victory at a stunned Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, realistically sinking New York’s hopes for a division crown.

The win widens Carolina’s lead over the Blueshirts to eight points with 13 games remaining and two games in hand. At the same time, the defeat also saw the Rangers(41-20-10,92 pts) drop a point in the standings to the second-place New Jersey Devils(45-18-8, 98 pts), who they trail by six points with 11 games remaining after their chief rivals picked up a point in their home tilt against the Minnesota Wild.

They would’ve had another if not for Filip Gustovsson’s  47 saves and Matt Boldy’s buzzer-beating overtime winner, giving the visitors a 2-1 win. “We played them tonight, two days from now, and then we have another game against Jersey. I think it was an opportunity for us to make it a little interesting in the standings. I don’t think it was our best game”, Jimmy Vesey said.

The loss ended an otherwise fruitful homestand where the Rangers went 4-1, recorded back-back shutouts, and outscored opponents 20-6. “It’s one game,” captain Jacob Trouba lamented in his postgame presser, “We didn’t have our best tonight. Move on, play another one in two days.” Yet if the team wants to succeed in Thursday’s revenge contest down in Raleigh, North Carolina, they need to classify this showing as far from good enough.

Before Tuesday’s game, the Rangers welcomed back arguably their Most Valuable Player. Defenseman Ryan Lindgren returned to the lineup after missing 11 games due to a lower-body injury he sustained when TJ Oshie laid him out in the Washington Capitals’ 6-3 victory over the Blueshirts on February 25th.

In his absence, New York defensive coach Gord Murphy was constantly changing pairs until he found what he liked, where he grew fond of trade-deadline acquisition Niko Mikkola who suited up for this game, while Ben Harpur was a healthy scratch. As for Adam Fox, losing his partner essentially restrained his offensive output.

The defenseman had to tend to the dirty work on the defensive end, which Lindgren usually takes care of, allowing Fox to join the rush up the ice. Entering Tuesday, Fox’s even-strength goal differential in 840:28 of ice time this season was +17(3rd in the NHL) when his battery mate was with him and +4 in 473:25 when he wasn’t. Most importantly, the team is 23-30-19 without Lindgren since 2019 and boasts a record of 146-81-25 when he does play in that same timeframe.

As expected, the 24-year-old looked a little rusty in his first game back, yet still managed to record an assist, two takeaways, a blocked shot, and avoid another injury scare following his shot block in 16:13 of ice time.

The Rangers scored first, but for once, it wasn’t Mika Zibanejad, who entered play with three consecutive game-opening goals; instead, Tyler Motte scored for the third time in four games, which is as many as he had in 38 games with the Ottawa Senators this season, before being traded. Since Motte’s arrival, the fourth line trio, which features him alongside

Vesey and Barclay Goodrow, have been the team’s most consistent line as of late, whether it would be killing off penalties, wearing down opponents with their tenacity, or scoring goals. On the play, Goodrow won an Offensive zone faceoff to the right of Frederik Anderson, who stopped 29 of 31 shots in the win and found Motte in front for a 1-0 Blueshirts lead at the 17-minute time mark of the opening stanza.

Though, a miscommunication by them led to a wide-open rush chance for Chatfield, whose perfect wrist shot beat Shesterkin on the far post to tie it with 10:11 remaining in regulation.

The Rangers would retake the lead 31 seconds after Carolina evened it, as Kaapo Kakko pounced on a rebound off a Lindgren shot off a pass from Fox.
Yet a response from Stefan Noesen, who deposited Jesper Fast’s feed into the net 18 seconds later, squared the score before Brett Burns took advantage of Chris Kreider and Vincent Trocheck, both challenging him, leaving a wide-open Teravainen for a gut-wrenching back door tally with 2:33 remaining, enough for the 3-2 victory.

In their past four meetings, the Rangers beat the Hurricanes at their own north-south game, but it usually takes time within each tilt to deviate from their traditional East-West approach. Yet, there was none on Tuesday, and as a result, Carolina picked off passes in the neutral zone throughout the night, forcing a staggering 20 giveaways and a total of 26 turnovers off of New York sticks.

They thoroughly outplayed the Blueshirts in the second period, outshooting them 15-5, and could’ve had the win wrapped earlier if not for Shesterkin’s heroics, who made 36 saves in the defeat. “Maybe we could’ve used more flip passes out of the zone, but you have to win your battles down low and we didn’t win enough”, Vesey said.

Not even New York’s revamped power play, which saw Zibanejad and Kreider with Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin, and Adam Fox instead of skating alongside Trocheck, Vladimir Tarasenko, Filip Chytil, and Trouba could generate sustained zone time, succumbing to the Canes relentless defensive pressure.

Anyone who thought Carolina would fold after losing top scorer Andrei Svechnikov for the season due to a torn right ACL has quickly been proven wrong as they’ve maintained their stake atop the division, despite the resurgences of the Devils and Rangers; an attribute to the depth at coach Rod Brind’Amour’s disposal and the defensive style of play he instills into them, allowing his team to use their speed, skill, and physicality to overwhelm the opposition.

“We didn’t play our game,” Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant said, “They were the quick, quick team, and we were slow.”

BLS COMMENT OF THE NIGHT: “Carolina is the MUCH better skating team, and are lights out defensively and on the puck. Shesterkin kept this from being a blowout.”-MoreGrit