Mats Zuccarello scored the only goal of the shootout and the Rangers escaped Carolina with a 3-2 victory over the Hurricanes Saturday night at PNC Arena to complete a five-game sweep of the teams' season series.
Zuccarello scored in the second round of the shootout, using his long stick to tuck the puck around 'Canes netminder Anton Khudobin after a nifty fake. Cam Talbot, who made 28 saves through 65 minutes of hockey, sealed the victory with a pad save on Jeff Skinner in Round Three of the shootout.
The Rangers started slowly Saturday night, surrendering a goal just 121 seconds into the game, rebounded with a strong second period, but then found themselves under siege in the third period when Carolina erased a one-goal deficit and tied the game, forcing overtime.
With Carl Hagelin in the penalty box--and shortly after Rick Nash just missed scoring on a shorthanded breakaway--Carolina's Ryan Murphy blasted a power play slap shot through traffic and past Talbot at 14:27 to tie the score at 2-2.
The Rangers managed to get the game to overtime despite being outshot 17-6 in the third period. Talbot was sensational, making 16 saves including a handful of absolute gems. He made a clutch against-the-grain blocker save to deny Nathan Gerbe's tricky backhander at the seven-minute mark, then robbed Eric Staal point blank at 10:17. A minute later Talbot stretched out to make a sharp pad stop on a puck which deflected off the skate of Rangers defenseman Marc Staal in front.
Talbot rebounded nicely after surrendering the game-opening goal just 2:01 into play when an Elias Lindholm right-wing shot somehow snuck through his pads. Not only did Carolina have the first-period lead, it had all of the momentum as the Rangers did not even manage their first shot on goal until nearly nine minutes of play had elapsed.
New York started to find its game late in the first period, and then controlled play in the second period, taking a 2-1 lead while outshooting the 'Canes 14-5 in the middle twenty. J.T. Miller tied the game with his eighth goal of the season--and second in the past four games--at 3:39 and Jesper Fast gave the Rangers their first lead at 12:59 with his fourth of the season.
Prior to the game head coach Alain Vigneault stated how he had long wondered how Miller would fit in on a line with Derick Brassard and Zuccarello--even comparing Miller's game to that of Benoit Pouliot who excelled with that line combination a year ago. Miler responded with the goal and a strong all-around game in which he logged 16 minutes 9 seconds worth of ice-time.
Miller beat Khudobin from in front after Brassard won an offensive-zone face off and Zuccarello proceeded to make a quick pass down low as Miller cut to the net.
The Rangers took a 2-1 lead when Fast scored off a spinning left-wing shot which flew over the glove of the Carolina netminder. The play started with Hagelin chipping a pass to Kevin Hayes, who skated the puck over the blue line before making a pinpoint pass to Fast.
That line combination may have been the Rangers best Saturday night. They generated several prime scoring chances and teamed for seven of New York's 29 shots on goal. Hayes and Fast were both robbed on a quick one-two punch from the slot with 6:10 to play in the first period, and then 3:30 into the second Hayes found Hagelin behind the defense with a soft pass, but Khudobin made a big-time pad save and Fast chipped the rebound just wide of the cage.
No rest for the weary, the Rangers--who started a six-games-in-nine-nights stretch Saturday--return home to face the Anaheim Ducks Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.