RALEIGH, N.C. — Chants of “Ig-or! Ig-or” have been a familiar tune for the Rangers this season, but they’re typically heard in the heart of New York City.
On Monday, they broke out on multiple occasions in the state capitol of North Carolina.
With each passing minute of Game 7, Rangers’ blue became more prevalent around PNC Arena. Hurricanes’ fans slowly headed for the exits, giving way to the Blueshirts’ faithful who had invaded their home rink.
Roughly 500 miles from Madison Square Garden, a New York-style party broke out.
They were celebrating a decisive 6-2 win for their Rangers, who ended their second-round playoff series with an emphatic message that they have arrived ahead of schedule.
Making the playoffs was an expectation. Beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round was in their wheelhouse. But upending the Metro Division champion Hurricanes in this fashion vaults them into the NHL’s upper echelon.
The road will only get more difficult from here. The two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning await in the Eastern Conference Final, which will begin at 8 p.m. Wednesday at MSG. And while that matchup will pose its fair share of difficulties, this moment belongs the Rangers.
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They snapped the Canes’ seven-game home playoff winning streak and took over Raleigh, leaving their fans to bask in the glory of what these bounce-back Blueshirts have accomplished.
For a team that’s never been here before, their knack for rising to the occasion has been the biggest takeaway from these playoffs – and they’re not done yet.
MVP performance from Igor Shesterkin
The goaltending matchup against the Lightning and star Andrei Vasilevskiy will be epic, but it overwhelmingly favored the Rangers in round two.
Igor Shesterkin was excellent from start-to-finish in this series and ended with an exclamation point. His 36-save performance on Memorial Day was memorable, with as he kept the Hurricanes off the board until well into the third period. Late goals from former Ranger Tony DeAngelo and Max Domi ended his chances of posting the second Game 7 in franchise history. (The first came from Henrik Lundqvist in 2013 against the Washington Capitals.)
Just as he did in Game 6, Shesterkin put forth an inspiring first period to rally his team and help them earn an early lead.
While Carolina made a predictable push and peppered him with 16 shots in the opening 20 minutes, they were continually frustrated by his brilliance. Meanwhile, Hurricanes backup Antti Raanta — who started all seven games due to a lower-body injury to starter Frederik Andersen — simply couldn’t keep up with his Vezina Trophy-bound counterpart.
Opening the floodgates
His teammates let him down with undisciplined play. A hooking call on Sebastian Aho and a too-many-men penalty handed the Rangers two first-period power plays and they cashed in on both.
The first resulted in a goal from Adam Fox at the 3:40 mark. It was setup by a drop pass from Alexis Lafrenière and came with just two seconds remaining on the power play.
The second took only 14 seconds, with Chris Kreider redirecting a one-timer from Mika Zibanejad to make it 2-0 after only eight minutes had elapsed in the game.
That was all Shesterkin would need to secure a win as he continued to thwart Carolina’s attacks, but the Rangers would provide much more cushion.
The floodgates opened after Raanta suffered a lower-body injury while lunging for a save late in the second period. He would not return, with the Blueshirts taking full advantage.
Ryan Strome greeted third-stringer Pyotr Kochetkov with a goal to make it 3-0 with 3:41 remaining in the period, then the Rangers pulled away with three more in the third.
Kreider added his second of the game, Filip Chytil notched his fifth of the playoffs and Andrew Copp potted an empty-netter to complete the most convincing win of the series.