Rangers eliminate Hurricanes from playoff race with 2-1 win
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The New York Rangers have known for a while they won’t make the playoffs. They made it official that the Carolina Hurricanes won’t, either.
Ryan Sproul scored and Kevin Hayes added a short-handed goal, and the Rangers beat the Hurricanes 2-1 on Saturday night to eliminate them from the playoff race.
Henrik Lundqvist made 40 saves for New York, which entered having lost three straight and six of seven — going 1-4-2 in that stretch — and was formally knocked out of the postseason chase earlier in the week.
“Especially when you’re officially eliminated, you want to end on a good note,” alternate captain Mika Zibanejad said. “You want to be able to get something out of it, and it’s just easy to lay down and just not care, but that’s not how we are as individuals in here.”
Jeff Skinner scored and Cam Ward made 18 saves for the Hurricanes, who will miss the playoffs for the ninth straight year — the longest active postseason drought in the NHL. For the third consecutive season, their official elimination came in their 79th game.
“I think we’ve known for a while, obviously, so officially, unofficially, we’ve still got to be ready to work and be a pro and show up and win games and play well for our fans,” co-captain Jordan Staal said.
Lundqvist’s third victory against Carolina this season helped the Rangers finish off a sweep in the series. New York won the first three games by a combined 17-5, but this was Ward’s first start of the season against them. Carolina’s previous three losses came with Scott Darling in net.
Skinner’s goal with 11:53 remaining made it a one-goal game, but the Rangers locked down after that, ending the game by killing a slashing penalty to Hayes over the final 74 seconds.
“You’ve just got to stick to your system,” defenseman Brady Skjei said. “We felt confident that we could kill it off, and when it comes down to 6-on-4, you’ve got to keep it compact and just try to keep pucks to the outside. That was kind of our mindset, and a few good sticks by our guys and that clear at the end by (Mats Zuccarello) was huge.”
Sproul scored first with 16:59 left in the second period. After Paul Carey dug the puck out of the corner, he found Sproul skating unimpeded between the circles and he ripped it past Ward for his first goal.
Then, with Zibanejad in the penalty box for tripping, Jesper Fast led a rush and threaded a pass to Hayes for a short-handed goal with 6:37 left in the second. That put the Rangers — who entered 21-0-1 when leading after two periods — up 2-0 after 40 minutes.
“The shorty’s the game-winner, right?” Carolina coach Bill Peters asked rhetorically. “That’s the difference in the hockey game.”
NOTES: Sproul’s goal left D Rob O’Gara as the only Rangers skater in the lineup without at least one goal on the season. ... Carolina C Derek Ryan, who assisted on Skinner’s goal, has points in four straight games.
Rangers: Continue their season-ending four-game road trip at New Jersey on Tuesday night.
Hurricanes: Will try to play spoiler at Florida on Tuesday night.
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