RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Brendan Smith scored a shorthanded goal late in the second period while Antti Raanta finished with 21 saves to help the Carolina Hurricanes beat the New York Rangers 2-0 on Friday night, taking a 2-0 lead in their second-round playoff series.
Smith's goal off a feed from Sebastian Aho marked his first postseason goal in nine years, and it was the difference in a tightly defended game by both teams with little space to operate and even fewer traffic-free looks at the net.
Aho added a clinching empty-net score to finish this off with 1.8 seconds left as Raanta held up.
The Hurricanes had flirted with tallying a short-handed goal earlier in the game multiple times, including once when Teuvo Teravainen pinged the right post in the first period from the slot off a feed from Aho. It ended up foreshadowing the Hurricanes' breakthrough score, with Aho skating in on the right side to set up Smith for a one-timer from the left that cleanly zipped past Igor Shesterkin for the putaway with 4:06 left in the second.
Carolina improved to 6-0 at home in the playoffs and has a 2-0 lead for the second straight round. Now they face the challenge of winning on the road for the first time in the postseason after claiming a seven-game first-round series against Boston in which no team managed a road win.
They’ll get their first chance to win at Madison Square Garden in Game 3 on Sunday. And the Rangers will try to mount another series comeback after rallying from a 3-1 deficit to beat Pittsburgh in a seven-game first-round series.
Shesterkin finished with 20 saves to lead the Rangers on a night with few offensive highlights.
The teams combined for 43 shots and had big penalty kills as well, with New York killing off more than a minute of 5-on-3 time while the Hurricanes scored their short-handed goal on a 4-minute kill for a double-minor high-sticking penalty on Brady Skjei.
Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour tweaked his lines a bit looking for a spark in the Game 1 comeback, then stuck with that look for Game 2.
Most notably, Teravainen moved up to the top line to play alongside Aho and rookie Seth Jarvis, while Andrei Svechnikov moved to the second line. Brind'Amour also moved up speedy skater Martin Necas to the second line and bumped Max Domi — the Game 7 hero against Boston with two goals — down to the fourth line.
The Rangers stayed with the same line pairings to start this one, though coach Gerard Gallant eventually moved Alexis Lafrenière up to the second line alongside Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome looking for a third-period spark.
RIGHT BACK IN
Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren left briefly after taking a puck to the mouth area near the boards slightly past the midway point of the first period. He was back on the bench, and soon after the ice, by late in the period.
Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey sounded the pregame “storm warning” siren for the Hurricanes to take the ice.
NFL quarterback Mike Glennon and WNBA player Kiara Leslie — both former North Carolina State stars who played in college here in Raleigh — sounded if for the first and second intermissions, respectively.
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at https://twitter.com/aaronbeardap
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Aaron Beard, The Associated Press