Mika Zibanejad had a goal and an assist, Igor Shesterkin stopped 43 shots, and the Rangers beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 Sunday in Game 3 of their second-round playoff series.
“It was a tight battle again,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “Igor was outstanding for us, and that was they key. … We defended pretty good and guys did the right thing with the puck.”
Chris Kreider and Tyler Motte also scored as the Rangers cut their deficit to 2-1 in the best-of-seven matchup. Game 4 is Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
“It’s a terrific environment … so much energy throughout the entire game,” Kreider said. “It’s easy to feed off the energy the crowd brings.”
It was just New York’s second win against Carolina in the teams’ last 10 meetings, dating to the qualifying round of the 2020 playoffs in the bubble in Toronto. The Hurricanes swept that best-of-five series in three games and won three of four in the regular season.
The Rangers, who came back from a 3-1 series deficit in the first round against Pittsburgh, improved to 4-1 at home. They got a much-needed win against the Hurricanes after losing 2-1 in OT in Game 1 and 2-0 in Game 2.
“I liked the way we battled in those two games in Carolina,” Gallant said. “We felt like we were going to win the hockey game. Our goalie was outstanding in the first half of the game and made some big key saves for us. I thought we played well enough to win.”
Nino Niederreiter scored for Carolina, and Antti Raanta finished with 30 saves. The Hurricanes, 6-0 at home, dropped to 0-4 on the road this postseason.
“We definitely had our opportunities to win,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “It felt good the way we were going. We couldn’t get pucks through the net.”
The Hurricanes were 0 for 3 on the power play, falling to 0 for 7 in this series. The Rangers were 1 for 2 and are now 1 for 7.
“We have to find a way just to bear down when we have the chances,” Niederreiter said. “Our penalty-kill is, for the most part, terrific. The power play, we just can’t seem to find a way to get a goal.”
Shesterkin had 17 saves in the first period, 17 in the second and nine in the third.
“They were really just trying to shoot from everywhere, feel out the game,” Shesterkin said through an interpreter. “But none of those shots were really that dangerous.”
The Rangers had a 2-on-1 breakaway 5 1/2 minutes into the third period, but Ryan Reaves’ shot from the right side was stopped by Raanta. Motte, who started raising his arms in anticipation of a goal, couldn’t corral the rebound.
Raanta then made a stellar save to deny Kaapo Kakko’s attempt from the right side three minutes later to keep it a one-goal game.
The Hurricanes pulled Raanta for an extra skater with 2 1/2 minutes to go. Less than 30 seconds later, Kreider missed a chance at the empty net, but Motte sealed it with a backhander from the defensive zone with 1:23 remaining.
Kreider pushed the Rangers’ lead to 2-0 as he got the puck from Zibanejad behind the Hurricanes’ net, brought it around to Raanta’s right, and fired a shot past the goalie top shelf from the left circle at 5:55 of the second. It was Kreider’s sixth of the postseason.
Niederreiter got the Hurricanes on the scoreboard 8:18 into the second as he brought the puck up the right side and put a backhander past Shesterkin for his fourth of the playoffs. It was a harmless-looking shot that got past the goalie.
“You miss a goal, you get a little disappointed for a second, you say a few mean words and you forget about it,” said Shesterkin, who improved to 7-1 this year when facing 40 or more shots, including 3-1 in the postseason. His lone loss in such games was Game 1 of the first round against Pittsburgh, when he faced 83 shots in a 4-3 loss in triple overtime.
Zibanejad opened the scoring with the Rangers’ first power-play goal of the series. He got a pass from Artemi Panarin and fired a shot from the left circle past Raanta with 8:06 left in the first for his fourth of the postseason. It was New York’s first goal since early in the first period of Game 1.
Looking for a spark, Gallant shuffled lines to start the game. Andrew Copp opened centering a line with Kakko and Frank Vatrano. The second line in was Filip Chytil centering Kreider and Zibanejad. Panarin centered a line with Alexis Lafreniere and Ryan Strome. The fourth line was Kevin Rooney, Motte and Reaves.
Gallant went back to the team’s usual lines to start the third period.
Kreider’s goal gave him 47 career postseason points, tying Ron Duguay for ninth place in franchise history.