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Rangers miss chance for record attempt

RALEIGH, N.C. – A runoff and a new franchise record weren’t meant to be.

The Rangers nearly pulled it off when Alexis Lafrenière tied the score early in the third period, but a late power-play goal by Brady Skjei sealed Saturday’s 4-3 victory for the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 4 at PNC Arena. It also gave New York its first loss in these playoffs, after starting 7-0 for the first time since 1994.

That forced Game 5 on Monday at 7 p.m. at Madison Square Garden, where the Blueshirts will have another chance to punch their ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Skjei’s slap shot from the point came with 3:11 left in Game 4, killing a remarkable streak of 24 consecutive penalties by the Rangers, including 16 straight penalties to start this streak.

The Canes won the special teams battle after being outscored 5-0 in those situations through the first three games. Of equal importance was their discipline in staying out of the penalty box to keep the Blueshirts’ red-hot power play off the ice.

After getting 13 PP chances and converting four in Game 4, they were limited to just one late chance in the first period on Saturday.

A tough first period

The first period could reasonably be called the Rangers’ worst period so far in these playoffs.

That doesn’t mean much considering they had won seven in a row, but the Hurricanes were on their heels from the start.

RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA - MAY 11: Dmitry Orlov #7 of the Carolina Hurricanes hits Jonny Brodzinski #22 of the New York Rangers during the third period in Game Four of the Second Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena on 11 May 2024 in Raleigh, North Carolina.RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA - MAY 11: Dmitry Orlov #7 of the Carolina Hurricanes hits Jonny Brodzinski #22 of the New York Rangers during the third period in Game Four of the Second Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena on 11 May 2024 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA – MAY 11: Dmitry Orlov #7 of the Carolina Hurricanes hits Jonny Brodzinski #22 of the New York Rangers during the third period in Game Four of the Second Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena on 11 May 2024 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The game started at the 1:51 mark, with a Barclay Goodrow turnover putting New York in an early hole. His attempt to cross the neutral zone was cleanly intercepted by Evgeny Kuznetsov, who raced to the Rangers net and fired a rising wrister past Igor Shesterkin to give Carolina a 1-0 lead.

The lead was doubled 4:42 later, with Stefan Noesen ending a possession extended by a failed clear attempt by sneaking behind the Blueshirts’ defense to bury a Teuvo Teravainen rebound.

The Rangers briefly cut the deficit to 2-1 when Kaapo Kakko threaded a pass through two defenders to set up a Will Cuylle breakaway attempt, but the Canes capped their highest-scoring period of the series with one more goal.

This came on a quick feed from Jake Guentzel to Sebastian Aho, with the one-time finish increasing Carolina’s lead to 3-1 at 15:29.

This ended a difficult period for the Rangers line with Artemi Panarin, Vincent Trocheck and Alexis Lafrenière, who played for both Noesen and Aho’s goals, as well as the D-pair of Erik Gustafsson and Jacob Trouba, with the first two was on the job once. of the Canes figures and the last for all three. Failed breakaways and turnovers were part of the problem, as was ending up too far up the ice when those attempts sputtered, as Trouba did on the Aho goal.

The rally falls short

New York responded with a much steadier second period, ramping up the offensive pressure and generating a handful of good scoring opportunities.

Two of those hit the post – one from Lafrenière and then another from Alex Wennberg – before Goodrow finally broke through to reduce the deficit to 3-2 at 12:43. He scored his second goal of the playoffs by tipping a Braden Schneider shot past Frederik Andersen, who returned to the Canes’ net after sitting for Game 3 in favor of rookie Pyotr Kochetkov.

Carolina had some close calls of their own, including a Guentzel breakaway in the waning seconds of the period, but Shesterkin stopped all thirteen shots he faced in the middle twenty minutes to keep the Rangers within striking distance.

Lafrenière, who turned it on after the shaky first period and was one of the Blueshirts’ standout players all night, took advantage by sneaking a shot from below the goal line in off Andersen’s back for his fourth goal of the series. That made the score 3-3 with 17:56 to play.

Vincent Z. Mercogliano is the New York Rangers beat reporter for the USA TODAY Network. Read more of his work at lohud.com/sports/rangers/ and follow him on Twitter @vzmercogliano.

This article originally appeared in Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Game 4 takeaways: Rangers miss chance for record-breaking sweep