Road continues to be Hurricanes’ Garden of nightmares, whether in Boston or New York

·4 min read

At some point, presumably, the Carolina Hurricanes are going to have to win a game on the road. It’s improbable to imagine they can count on Florida and Colorado losing and rolling to the Stanley Cup in 28 games going 16-12.

Why even cross the border at that point, if it comes to it?

Madison Square turned out to be no different than TD had been for the Hurricanes, these gardens of their ongoing discontent. And like those games against the Boston Bruins, this one ended with after-the-whistle fireworks, Max Domi and Ryan Lindgren rolling around on the ice and New York Rangers coach Gerard Gallant yelling at a Hurricanes player — apparently Tony DeAngelo — to “shut the (expletive) up,” although DeAngelo dismissed the notion he was the target.

“I don’t think so,” DeAngelo said. “Pumped up about his win, I’m sure.”

That kind of gamesmanship is as much a part of the playoffs as winning and losing games on special teams, and the Hurricanes are perfecting the latter part of the latter on the road.

In this one, perhaps even more than any of the three losses in Boston, the Hurricanes could say that they did almost everything they needed to do five-on-five to win before losing 3-1.

Even strength, good.

Special teams, bad.

Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before.

“It’s tough to say,” Hurricanes goal-scorer Nino Niederreiter said. “We’ve got to find a way to just bear down when we have the chances. Our penalty-kill is for the most part terrific. The power play just has to find a way to get a goal.”

It’s impossible to ascribe any grand unifying theory to why the Hurricanes haven’t been able to win on the road so far, other than losing the special-teams battle in various ways in each game. That’s both overly broad and all too common a thread in any playoff series, anywhere.

“Killed some penalties, scored a power-play goal, that’s how you win hockey games and tight games,” Gallant said, and on that the Hurricanes would agree.

Don’t they know it.

“They got one on theirs and we didn’t,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “That’s pretty much the game.”

They have had a chance in all four losses, undone by their own discipline and the Bruins’ power play in the first two games in Boston, their inability to make the Bruins pay for their lack of discipline in Game 6 and — again — getting outscored on the power play Sunday.

That was the difference, especially getting a power play with six minutes to go and a chance to equalize but failing to convert.

“You could say you need to score right there, I know that’s what we’ll say, that’s what everyone would say,” DeAngelo said. “But we had three in the game? I think we had three. And a six-on-five chance too, so to me it’s four. Any of those go in, right, it’s a different game.”

The Hurricanes were unquestionably the better team Sunday, in a much more wide-open game than the two in Raleigh, a far chippier game even before the end. Gallant worked blue in his postgame press conference as well, accusing the Hurricanes of message-sending, which would be news to anyone who’s watched the Hurricanes all year.

Igor Shesterkin was a hair better than Antti Raanta despite letting a relatively harmless Nino Niederreiter backhand get past him, the softest goal of the series so far. Raanta made no such errors, and the Rangers’ goals were well taken; he was just one spectacular save short of Shesterkin.

The Rangers blocked 17 shots — it seemed like more — and the Hurricanes still got 44 shots on the net. The longer the game went, the more likely the Hurricanes were to outscore the Rangers, but you only get 60 minutes, and then it’s time to move on to Game 4.

“I would take that game most nights, to be honest with you,” Brind’Amour said.

The problem with that, in the very small sample of a playoff series, is that any little thing — one hot goalie, one bad penalty, one missed call, one slumping power-play unit — can delay the larger deserved rewards until it’s too late. Over 82 games, it’s all going to work out in the wash. Over seven, there’s a chance it does not.

The Hurricanes, at least, guaranteed themselves another home game, with the Rangers forcing a Game 5 in Raleigh on Thursday at the least. An inaugural road win Tuesday would give them a chance to close out the series then. There’s absolutely no mystery what that would take.

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