(2M) Rangers at (1M) Hurricanes

Eastern Conference Second Round, Game 5

Best-of-7 series tied 2-2

7 p.m. ET; ESPN, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVAS

The Carolina Hurricanes will try to stay perfect at home in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and move within one win of the Eastern Conference Final when they play Game 5 of the second round against the New York Rangers at PNC Arena on Thursday.

The Hurricanes are 6-0 at home in the playoffs, the longest home winning streak in a single postseason in Carolina/Hartford Whalers history. They lead the NHL in home wins and home goal differential (plus-15). 

Carolina won Games 1 and 2 against the Rangers 2-1 and 2-0.

“I thought we did a good job both games neutralizing the crowd and we just weren’t able to find ways to win here,” Rangers forward Kevin Rooney said. “I don’t think it matters the [home] record. We’re looking forward to having a good start, being good early.”

[RELATED: Complete Hurricanes vs. Rangers series coverage]

The Rangers responded by winning each of their home games at Madison Square Garden by a combined score of 7-2, including 4-1 in Game 4 on Tuesday.

“I think as a group we didn’t play very well in Game 4,” Hurricanes center Jordan Staal said. “Give them credit they made a push, and they were desperate, and we weren’t. We looked sloppy. We’re hoping to sharpen the knife again and be aware of where we’re at and what we’re trying to accomplish here.”

The team that wins Game 5 when a best-of-7 series is tied 2-2 is 223-60 (.788) winning the series, including 4-2 in the first round of the 2022 playoffs. When the home team wins it’s 141-34; the road team is 82-26.

Here are 3 keys to Game 5:

1. Hurricanes need to power up

The Hurricanes are 0-for-9 on the power play in the series and 1-for-18 going back to Game 6 of the first round against the Boston Bruins. Worse yet, it’s not helping them generate any momentum going into 5-on-5 play. In fact, the Rangers are getting that from their penalty kill.

Carolina made some personnel changes before Game 4, including moving Nino Niederreiter to the top unit to be a net-front presence and Teuvo Teravainen to the second unit, but nothing has worked yet.

“We obviously have got to score,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said. 

Another problem for the Hurricanes is the Rangers have scored on their power play in each of the past two games and generated momentum from other man-advantage opportunities. They either need the power play to connect in Game 5 or at the very least keep the Rangers’ power play from scoring.

“If one is not going you hope the other one is,” Brind’Amour said.

2. Igor, again

Igor Shesterkin was the Rangers’ best player in Game 3 and arguably their best in Game 4. When the goalie is their best player, the Rangers typically find a way to win.

Shesterkin made 43 saves in Game 3, a 3-1 victory. He made 30 saves in Game 4 to win 4-1. He is 5-2 with a 1.98 goals-against average and .939 save percentage since getting pulled in Games 3 and 4 against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round. His two losses were Games 1 and 2 here, when he allowed three goals on 47 shots.

Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said he thinks Shesterkin getting pulled in consecutive games forced him to reset mentally and have some hard conversations with goaltending coach Benoit Allaire, and it’s made a difference in how he’s played since.

“First time through the playoffs and a young goalie and the way that crowd [in Pittsburgh] was roaring and cheering against him,” Gallant said. “You learn. You get better from that. ‘Benny’ talked to him a couple times; you’ve got to focus on the play. You can’t worry about what the crowd is doing or a bad goal. You’ve got to get by one bad. He’s played great. He’s a big guy, he’s a big part of our group and I think he’s ready for that now.”

3. Zibanejad vs. Staal

The matchup to watch in Game 5 will be between Hurricanes center Jordan Staal and Rangers center Mika Zibanejad. 

The Hurricanes were able to get that matchup in Games 1 and 2 as the home team with the last change. Staal, with linemates Jesper Fast and Niederreiter, got the better of Zibanejad, Chris Kreider and Frank Vatrano.

Zibanejad, Kreider and Vatrano did not get a point. Staal won 19 of 29 face-offs against Zibanejad, including eight of 13 in the defensive zone.

But the Rangers were able to free Zibanejad away from Staal in Games 3 and 4, when they had the last change, and he had three points (two goals, one assist) and won 12 face-offs against Staal, six in the defensive zone.

Staal will be on Zibanejad again in Game 5, and Zibanejad knows he’s going to have to find a way to be more of a factor than he was in Games 1 and 2.

“It’s a fun challenge,” Zibanejad said. 

Rangers projected lineup

Chris Kreider — Mika Zibanejad — Frank Vatrano

Artemi PanarinRyan StromeAndrew Copp

Alexis LafreniereFilip ChytilTyler Motte

Kaapo Kakko — Kevin Rooney — Ryan Reaves

Ryan LindgrenAdam Fox

K’Andre MillerJacob Trouba

Justin BraunBraden Schneider

Igor Shesterkin

Alexandar Georgiev

Scratched: Patrik Nemeth, Libor Hajek, Greg McKegg, Julien Gauthier, Jonny Brodzinski, Dryden Hunt

Injured: Barclay Goodrow (lower body), Sammy Blais (knee) 

Hurricanes projected lineup

Teuvo Teravainen — Sebastian AhoSeth Jarvis

Andrei SvechnikovVincent TrocheckMartin Necas

Nino Niederreiter — Jordan Staal — Jesper Fast

Jordan MartinookJesperi KotkaniemiMax Domi

Jaccob SlavinTony DeAngelo

Brady SkjeiBrett Pesce

Brendan SmithIan Cole

Antti Raanta

Pyotr Kochetkov

Scratched: Ethan Bear, Derek Stepan, Steven Lorentz

Injured: Frederik Andersen (lower body)

Status report

The Rangers held an optional skate with Schneider, Braun and Rooney participating. … Martinook will likely return to the lineup for the first time since sustaining a lower-body injury in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Boston Bruins. Lorentz is likely to come out.

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