It was steamy outside the arena and heated at times inside once the game began Friday as the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers went at it again.
It was Game 2 of their second-round Stanley Cup playoff series. The Canes won the first game at PNC Arena and the Rangers desperately wanted to win the second to even the series.
But the Canes, still unbeaten at home in the playoffs, would not be denied, winning 2-0 on Brendan Smith’s shorthanded goal in the second period and Antti Raanta’s stellar shutout work in net. Sebastian Aho added an empty-netter in the final seconds for good measure.
The Canes won Game 1 when defenseman Ian Cole became the unexpected star in overtime. In another unlikely twist, it was Cole’s defensive partner, that man Smith, who supplied the winning goal.
With the Canes on the penalty kill late in the second period, Aho took a clearing pass and was off shorthanded, finding Smith streaking in for the pass and score – Aho’s pass going through the legs of defenseman Adam Fox
Smith became the second defenseman in franchise history to score shorthanded in the playoffs. Mike Commodore had a “shorty’ in Game 1 of the 2006 Eastern Conference finals against the Buffalo Sabres.
Smith’s goal, with 4:06 left in the second period, was the only thing allowed by the two goaltenders, the Canes’ Antti Raanta and the Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin. Raanta finished with 21 saves in his first career playoff shutout.
In Game 1, the Rangers took a 1-0 lead in the opening period and held on to it until late in regulation. Aho’s goal tied the score and then Cole gave the Canes 2-1 victory with his overtime score.
Game 2 had the Canes scoring the game’s first goal and then trying to cling to the lead and add to it. After Smith’s shorty, Carolina had 1:03 of a 5-on-3 advantage late in the second period.
But the Rangers, with some active work, first killed off a Kevin Rooney boarding penalty, then a slashing call against Chris Kreider.
That kept it a one-goal game heading into the third period.
Good shots were hard to find and the neutral zone hard to navigate. At one point in the second period, the Rangers had gone nine minutes without a shot attempt.
Both Raanta and Shesterkin made their share of super stops. In the second, Shesterkin gloved a heavy shot by the Canes’ Tony DeAngelo. Raanta did his part, again.
The Canes seemingly were more dangerous at 4-on-5 than 5-on-4 Friday. Teuvo Teravainen came inches from a shorthanded goal in the first period, hitting the post after an Aho pass.
The series now shifts back to New York for Games 3 and 4. The Canes won three of four games against the Rangers in the regular season, twice winning at Madison Square Garden late in the second.
The Canes won four at home in dispatching the Boston Bruins in the opening round but played sporadically in losing three times in Boston.