If only history had repeated itself one last time.
Despite winning every other home game across the postseason, the Carolina Hurricanes were ultimately unable to pick up a game seven victory against the New York Rangers at PNC Arena in Raleigh on Monday, May 30. With the 6-2 loss, Carolina’s 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs run has officially come to a close.
It would be almost too kind to describe the first 20 minutes of gameplay as underwhelming. 1:42 into the first period, Canes center Sebastian Aho was sent to the box for a lazy penalty against New York center Andrew Copp. Typically, an early power play wouldn’t disrupt the Hurricanes — their penalty kill was top of the league across the regular season — but the postseason has been a different story.
With mere seconds left in the power play, New York defenseman Adam Fox nailed a bullet into the top right of the net, right past goaltender Antti Raanta. Raanta, whose performance has been stellar throughout the playoffs, isn’t solely to blame for the Rangers’ early 1-0 lead — time and time again throughout the first period, Carolina’s defensemen faltered on their side of the ice.
Although the Hurricanes’ gameplay was less than stellar at the start of game seven, many fans became rightfully incensed after New York defenseman Jacob Trouba administered a heavy hit to 20-year old center Seth Jarvis, who’s been at the receiving end of some serious battering throughout his first postseason run.
And not only did Trouba get away scot-free, but Carolina actually received a penalty after right-wing Andrei Svechnikov entered the ice a tad too quickly for the referee’s liking. Within 20 seconds, Rangers left-wing Chris Kreider scored on Raanta to widen New York’s lead to 2-0 less than halfway through the first period.
The news that Jarvis wouldn’t be returning to the ice, alongside the Canes’ lackluster defense and underwhelming power plays, didn’t exactly bode well heading into the next 20 minutes of gameplay. That being said, Carolina managed to keep the puck out of the net for at least the first half of the second period.
New York tucked another power play under its belt after Svechnikov was sent to the box for tripping — thankfully, the Rangers weren’t able to find the net. Minutes later, the Hurricanes were faced with an incredibly important power play opportunity they ultimately weren’t able to capitalize on, despite best efforts from the likes of Aho and center Max Domi.
It’s no secret that some of Carolina’s top players were underperforming on Monday evening. Svechnikov, Aho and center Vincent Trocheck — top scorers throughout the regular season — failed to execute offensively across the postseason, and in game seven especially.
To make matters worse, Raanta seemed to overextend his lower body with less than five minutes to go in the second period. After being helped off the ice, backup goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov took Raanta’s place. It wasn’t his first time on the ice during playoffs — the 22-year old Russian had some postseason experience a few weeks back in games 2 and 3 against the Boston Bruins.
New York center Ryan Strome scored the Rangers’ third goal 16:19 into the second period to officially spell out disaster for Carolina. The Hurricanes were tasked with erasing a three-goal deficit within 20 minutes of gameplay, a near-impossible feat against the Rangers, who are 8-1 in game seven matches where they’ve been leading after the first two periods.
Heading into the final period, it was crucial for the Canes to lay everything out on the ice despite the long odds stacked against them. And despite some good pushes from Carolina’s offense and a strong effort all around, Kreider scored his second goal of the evening to increase New York’s lead to 4-0 with a little over 15 minutes of gameplay left.
At this point, it was clear fans were watching the last throes of the Hurricanes’ postseason run. It was center Vincent Trocheck who gave attendees and viewers the satisfaction of seeing a Carolina goal, at the very least, in the team’s last game of the postseason.
Unfortunately, any spark of momentum the Canes gained thanks to Trocheck’s goal was quickly lost after a bullet from New York center Filip Chytil soared past Kochetkov. With the score at 5-1 and 11 minutes left in the third period, Carolina didn’t have a fleeting chance of erasing the deficit.
Domi, who scored two goals in Carolina’s game 7 victory over the Boston Bruins last series, delivered the puck straight past New York goaltender Igor Shesterkin to lower the Hurricanes’ goal deficit. It was too little, too late, but encouraging nevertheless. Less than a minute later, Copp scored on an empty net to erase Domi’s progress, but that didn’t exactly come as a shock to Canes fans.
Despite an underwhelming game of missed opportunities and bad luck, you can’t say the Hurricanes didn’t fight until the end. Although Carolina won’t be facing the Tampa Bay Lightning in the next round, it’s encouraging to see the team improve year after year. A tough postseason, sure, but the boys will be back before we know it.
“I think every year, this end is always tough, because I felt like we were in a different spot this year,” said head coach Rod Brind’Amour. “We weren’t better than everybody, but we weren’t worse, [either] … Very proud of the group though, overall. Just the way the guys played every day, from preseason all the way to now, they gave it everything they had.”