vStLouis_Martinookfaceoff_NF.jpg

Left Wing Jordan Martinook goes against a St. Louis player in a faceoff during the game in PNC Arena on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021. The Hurricanes beat the Blues 3-2.

The Carolina Hurricanes held on for a division-clinching 4-3 win over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, April 26.

The Canes (53-20-8) carried a 3-1 lead into the second intermission, but the Rangers (51-23-6) made the scoreline close with two goals in the final seven minutes. Carolina secured the win to earn the second seed in the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup playoffs, set to start on May 2.

“When I first came here, to make the playoffs was the pinnacle for that year,” said left wing Jordan Martinook. “Now it’s division champs two years in a row. I know last year is last year, but the standard has been set and we’re looking forward to the next chapter here.”

The Metro matchup featured two young Russian goalies — Pyotr Kochetkov for the Hurricanes and Igor Shesterkin for New York — who performed quite well despite the high-scoring affair. Kochetkov ultimately came away with the win, making 31 saves, including some highlight-reel plays to keep his team on the front foot.

“It’s a great story,” said head coach Rod Brind’Amour. “Hopefully it continues. He looks like nothing is fazing him and he looks like he belongs.”

The Canes did not do themselves any favors, however, as the end of the first period and beginning of the second were characterized by back-to-back-to-back penalties against Carolina. At a point where the then-scoreless game hung in the balance, the Hurricanes’ league-best penalty kill rose to the occasion by killing off all three penalties.

“That was huge,” said defenseman Brady Skjei. “Our PK has been really good all year. We don’t want to rely on it too much with all of those penalties we’re taking, but it’s been one of our strengths all year to kill those off and against a really good power play tonight.”

Center Vincent Trocheck teamed up with Skjei and right wing Nino Niederreiter to finally open the scoring after the trio of PKs. Niederreiter threaded the needle to Skjei, who dished a cross-ice pass for Trocheck to fire the puck into the exposed net.

Martinook doubled the Carolina lead a few minutes later by taking a deflection off his body that found the net. The Rangers pulled one back within the final two minutes of the period, but left wing Teuvo Teräväinen pulled the momentum right back to the Canes’ side with a slick goal to make it 3-1.

Center Sebastian Aho capped off the Hurricanes scoring with a goal just 32 seconds into the third period. The Rangers proceeded to slowly claw their way back into the game over the next 12 minutes and change until Jacob Trouba cut the Canes lead back to two. New York emptied its net for an extra attacker in the dying minutes, resulting in a 6-on-5 goal for Alexis Lafrenière with 1:02 to go, but Carolina nursed its 4-3 lead through to the final buzzer.

With one game left on its regular season schedule, Carolina is making its final preparations for the postseason. Now with the Metro division title in tow, the Canes have hit their stride again after a rough patch of games down the stretch.

The Hurricanes will finish their regular season at home against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, April 28. Puck drops at 7 p.m.