There were some clear expectations going into Game 1 of the second-round series between the Rangers and the Carolina Hurricanes in the N.H.L. playoffs. And in some ways, the 2-1 overtime victory by Carolina in Raleigh, N.C., on Wednesday developed as foreseen. But it also threw up some surprises. Here’s how it played out.
Expected: The Hurricanes won at home
Carolina just completed a 4-3 series win over the Boston Bruins. All seven games were won by the home team. The Hurricanes were 29-8-4 at home in the regular season. They were also favored in Wednesday’s game — with odds of around 1-2 — and favored in the series.
Expected: It was close
Carolina is the top seed from the Metropolitan Division, but the Rangers finished just 6 points behind. Carolina was coming off a one-goal Game 7 victory over the Bruins, and the Rangers won three in a row to rally past the Pittsburgh Penguins, by two goals, two goals and one goal (in overtime).
Expected: It was low scoring
The Hurricanes and the Rangers had the league’s stingiest defenses, finishing 1-2 in goals against.
Igor Shesterkin of the Rangers was the league’s best goalie this season. He was pulled from two games that got out of hand in the Penguins series, but the team kept the faith, and he had 99 saves in the last three games.
Antti Raanta, who has been starting in goal for Carolina because Frederik Andersen is out with an injury, also came up big in the game.
“Yeah, we would have liked to score more goals,” Mika Zibanejad of the Rangers said. “We did a lot of good things. We get those chances again, I’m sure we’ll score a couple more.”
In contrast, the other series that started Wednesday was a rollicking 9-6 win for the Calgary Flames over the Edmonton Oilers.
Unexpected: The Rangers outplayed the Hurricanes
It was the New Yorkers who were downcast afterward, but the Rangers actually played the Hurricanes off the ice for much of the game.
Despite winning their previous series, the Rangers were outshot by the Penguins, 310-269 (and also outscored). Most figured that they would be outshot by the Hurricanes as well, relying on efficient shooting and their crack goalie Shesterkin to stay in the series.
But the Rangers outshot the Hurricanes, 28-26. And that statistic does not tell the whole story, as the Rangers were dominating for two periods. “The first two periods was perfect hockey for us,” Coach Gerard Gallant said. “We didn’t spend a lot of time in our zone. We got pucks out. We had real good offensive chances and didn’t capitalize on all of them. But I thought it was their best game of the year, I really did.”
Coach Rod Brind’Amour of the Hurricanes agreed: “For two periods, they were the better team, no question.”
Unexpected: Everything changed in the third period
Whether it was tweaks to the lineups, a better mentality or simply changing fortunes, the Hurricanes looked like a different team in the third period. Suddenly it was Carolina taking the bulk of the shots and the Rangers who struggled to get out of their own end. After a couple of Carolina shots off the post, Sebastian Aho tied the game with 2 minutes 23 seconds to go on a rebound of his own saved shot.
Unexpected: Ian Cole?
The overtime game winner at 3:12 was a shot from distance by the veteran Ian Cole that deflected off a Ranger stick. Cole had two goals all season and only 29 in his 12-year career.
“That’s what’s great about this game,” Brind’Amour said. “You just don’t know who is going to be the guy.”