For a brief period of time Saturday night, starting at 12:56 of the second period, Game 6 looked in doubt for the Rangers.
Just nine seconds after Vincent Trocheck had scored to bring the Hurricanes within two goals, Chris Kreider took a hooking penalty. The Rangers, very much in control of the game to that point, suddenly looked as if they could be on their heels. Inside Madison Square Garden, which had shaken and swayed as the home team took a commanding lead early, a bit of doubt seemed to be creeping in.
If there were a moment for Carolina to mount a comeback — to end the series, the Rangers’ season and its own demons on the road in this postseason, where they still have not won a game this postseason following the Blueshirts’ 5-2 victory — that was it.
Over the next two minutes, the Hurricanes officially recorded two shots on net. Both were from 49 feet out.
“Honestly, the guys, I think, are great on the penalty kill,” Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin said later. “A big thanks to them. They really saved me. I don’t think the other team got any shots off of me during that penalty kill, which was great. They put up a crazy effort.”
As much of a Herculean effort as Shesterkin, who finished with 37 saves, put up, that kill came at a rare moment in which he was looking somewhat vulnerable. He had just allowed his second goal of the period.
For so much of this season, Shesterkin has bailed the Rangers out. For the rest of the second period, the Rangers bailed Shesterkin out.
That is because just a few minutes after the first successful kill, the goalie took a penalty of his own. The Rangers had been hemmed into their own zone, and they needed Shesterkin to make a big stop on Seth Jarvis in the crease. Instead, Shesterkin was called for interference.
That presented Carolina with a second chance to change the game. And again, two minutes came and went — this time without Shesterkin even facing a shot on net.
The Hurricanes have gone through much of this second-round series trying to figure out their power play, and they seemed to have gotten a grip on it by finally scoring on the man-advantage in their Game 5 victory. Heading into Game 7, they will again face questions after finishing Saturday with an abysmal showing over six minutes of power-play time.
“[The penalty kill has] been huge for us,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “Our PK’s been great all season for us and in this series, it’s been real good. They were big and different guys get out there and do the job.”