Shesterkin superb as Rangers dominate Game 7

RALEIGH, NC — The New York Rangers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 6-2 in Game 7 on Monday night, advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals to face the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin made 36 saves for a second win in Game 7 of this playoffs.

“Obviously our goalie was our best player again,” said forward Chris Kreider, who scored twice in the victory.

Defenseman Adam Fox, center Ryan Strome, center Filip Chytil and forward Andrew Copp added goals.

This is the first trip to the Stanley Cup semifinals for the Rangers since 2015, when they also faced the Lightning.

The Eastern Conference Finals begin Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers have won all three meetings with the Lightning in the regular season, with Shesterkin in goal for each win.

Monday’s Game 7 ended a 13-game playoff streak for the Hurricanes in which the home side won every game, and it was also the first time an opponent scored more than two goals in a game. at PNC Arena.

“I kind of called us cockroaches. We just didn’t leave. It’s always been ingrained in the culture of every good team I’ve been on here. We just don’t leave no matter what. score and it doesn’t matter where the game is. We keep trying to find our game and play for each other,” Kreider said.

Fox gave the Rangers a 1-0 early lead as New York’s power play scored for the fifth straight game. New York won the power play after goaltender Antti Raanta flipped the puck deep in his crease, leading to a hook penalty from Sebastian Aho. The Hurricanes had killed most of that power play when Fox jumped off the Rangers bench. Carolina’s shorthandedness hasn’t caught up with him. It allowed Fox to skate, shoot the puck and beat Raanta’s glove side for the 1-0 advantage just 3:40 from the start of the game.

Carolina had a power play after that, without converting. The Hurricanes then took a minor bench for too many men on the ice at 7:46 of the first period; an injured Seth Jarvis was unable to leave the ice before a sixth skater jumped on it, the result of another crushing blow from Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba in the series. Kreider deflected a Mika Zibanejad shot past Raanta to take a 2-0 lead just 14 seconds into the power play.

“Any time you score the first goal, especially on the road, it helps. That crowd, when they get into it, feeds off of that,” Fox said. “It was even more important to follow up with a second shortly after.”

Jarvis, a frontline winger, did not return to the game for the Hurricanes.

The Hurricanes’ power play has been helpless in this series, failing to score on three chances in the first two periods.

As their offense struggled to find ground in the second period, the Hurricanes suffered another blow to an important player: Raanta, who sustained a lower-body injury while scooping a goal opportunity from Zibanejad . Raanta started 13 games in place of injured starter Frederik Andersen, who hadn’t appeared since April 16 with a lower-body injury. Raanta was helped off the ice by a coach.

Rookie Pyotr Kochetkov came on and gave Strome a goal at 16:19 to make it 3-0 for Rangers. Winger Artemi Panarin sent the puck on the boards to Strome, who got into a 2-on-1 with Copp. Strome opted to shoot and beat Kochetkov on the second shot he faced after replacing Raanta.

“I was still nervous. I felt a bit better after that third goal in the second period,” said Rangers coach Gerard Gallant. “They’re too good a team. If you let your guard down, they can come back.”

Carolina finally broke through on the power play in the third period, as defenseman Tony DeAngelo scored just his second of 18 power-play goals in the series. But Rangers responded 40 seconds later, as Chytil scored his fifth of the playoffs on a Carolina turnover.

Max Domi scored late in the third period for Carolina.

Shesterkin was excellent when Rangers needed him, including a close-range save on forward Jordan Martinook seconds into the third period to hold the lead.

“He made key saves at key times. He held that 2-0 lead in the first period,” Gallant said.

“We scored two quick goals and that helped me a lot. I just tried to [do] my job, stopping the puck,” Shesterkin said.

The Rangers goaltender was 3-0-0 with a .958 save percentage and 1.30 goals-against average against the Lightning in the regular season. The playoff pits Shesterkin against fellow Russian Andrei Vasilevskiy, a back-to-back Stanley Cup winner.

“He is the best goalkeeper in the world right now. I think it will be a good battle,” Shesterkin said.

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