RALEIGH, NC – Sebastian Aho extended the game. Ian Cole ended it. And that allowed the Carolina Hurricanes to escape their first home loss of the playoffs despite being completely outplayed most of the night.
Cole beat Igor Shesterkin at 3:12 of overtime to help the Hurricanes beat the New York Rangers 2-1 Wednesday night, making a late rally to win Game 1 of their second-round playoff series.
Aho had forced the extra period when he pushed one past Shesterkin late in the third period in a dramatic finish. Yet it overshadowed the fact that the Metropolitan Division winners were fortunate to win after the Rangers controlled the first 40 minutes.
“Kudos to our guys, they got it going in, it certainly was a good third period,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “We’re not going to get away with that, not playing two periods and expect to win a game – especially at this time of year against that team.”
The Hurricanes won home-ice by securing the division title with a win against the Rangers in Madison Square Garden in the final week of the regular season. They nearly handed it over but instead will seek a sixth straight win here when they host Game 2 on Friday night.
Cole’s rebound winner clipped the stick of Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren, with the puck changing direction before slipping past Shesterkin.
“I was looking to pass it to someone,” Cole said. “And no one was really kind of dangerous anywhere. So I was like, ‘Well, I guess I’ll throw it on net and see what happens.’”
“Hockey’s a game of weird bounces and it happened to go in. Not the prettiest, but we’ll take it.”
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The score capped Carolina’s late comeback, which began with the Hurricanes showing more urgency and aggression coming out of the second intermission.
Carolina also got a key effort from Antti Raanta, who had 27 saves and helped the Hurricanes hang around until their attack finally took its familiar form.
“They put a big push on in the third period in the first 10 minutes, and we weathered that storm,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “But the first two periods was perfect hockey for us. … I thought it was our best game of the year, I really did.”
Filip Chytil scored the first-period goal for the Rangers, while Shesterkin finished with 24 saves.
Both teams advanced through grueling seven-game first-round series, first with Carolina finally getting past Boston on Saturday followed by New York rallying past Pittsburgh in overtime a day later.
The Hurricanes never trailed in that series nor in their four home wins. The Rangers had to rally from a 3-1 series deficit, which included Shesterkin – finalist for the Vezina Trophy for league’s top goalie and Hart Trophy for league MVP – bouncing back from surrendering 10 goals in Games 3 and 4.
Yet when this one started, it was the Hurricanes who looked a step slow while the Rangers gave up few quality chances. New York was also opportunistic at the perfect moment early.
As defenseman Tony DeAngelo tried to send the puck back to teammate Jaccob Slavin for a reset, Rangers forward Alexis Lafrenière stole the pass to lead a 3-on-2 rush. Lafrenière passed to Chytil, who one-timed the puck from the right side past the extended stick of Slavin and Raanta at 7:07 of the first.
That lone-goal lead held up for more than 50 minutes. It helped too that the Hurricanes twice pinged the crossbar in the third, first on a breakaway by Nino Niederreiter and later from Aho in what appeared to be confirmation that it wasn’t their night.
Instead, Aho followed by taking a feed from rookie Seth Jarvis and then going to his backhand side. Shesterkin made the initial stop, but Aho knocked the rebound across for the typing score with 2:23 left and set up Cole’s winner.
“We wanted to win but we get a chance again on Friday to try to get the split and go home,” center Mika Zibanejad said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism