By Peter Koutroumpis
TORONTO, ONTARIO – The Carolina Hurricanes took a big step forward in the NHL postseason at Scotiabank Arena on Monday.
Led by goaltender Petr Mrazek’s 23-save performance and fueled by a hat trick from forward Andrei Svechnikov, the Hurricanes beat the New York Rangers 4-1.
Jordan Martinook also added his first career postseason goal to get the best of Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist, who made hist 130th career playoff start, one that ended in a second consecutive loss.
Carolina now leads the Best-of-5 Qualifier Series 2-0.
Getting work done at both ends
Carolina’s tenacious forechecking and power play created opportunities that Lundqvist couldn’t deny.
Artemi Panarin scored the Rangers’ lone goal on the power play and tied the score 1-1 at the 12:05 mark of the first period, following Svechnikov’s game opener just under eight minutes earlier.
Connecting the defensive stops Mrazek made, some at point-blank range, up to the offensive zone was forward Sebastian Aho who tallied three assists, all on Svechnikov’s historic markers in the second and third periods.
Though unable to endure the rain of hats that surely would have fallen on him if spectators were allowed in the building, the 20-year-old Russian’s three-goals were a career first for him and the franchise in the postseason.
Scoring a total of three goals in nine games played as a 19-year-old during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Svechnikov’s work against New York proved critical in such a pivotal game in the short series.
As humble as he is, he gave praise to his opposition as well as his team.
“It felt great, we came out hard,” Svechnikov said.
“I’m excited about the hat trick, especially against a superstar goalie. I wouldn’t do that without my partners, thanks to them. I think we played a real good game.”
Having noted him as ‘special’ from the first time he met him, head coach Rod Brind’Amour repeated what he’s always said about the Hurricanes young talent.
“I think everyone has the same opinion of him when you meet him,” Brind’Amour said.
“He’s genuine – he’s a great person. He’s a special kid and he’s just getting’ better and better. We’re really fortunate to have him.”
Svechnikov became the eighth different player in NHL history to score a hat trick in the postseason before age 21. He joined Filip Forsberg (Game 5 of 2015 R1), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (Game 3 of 2013 CQF), Sean Couturier (Game 2 of 2012 CQF), Patrick Kane (Game 6 of 2009 CSF), Peter Zezel (Game 4 of 1986 DSF), Wayne Gretzky(Game 3 of 1981 QF & Game 3 of 1981 PRLM) and Ted Kennedy (Game 4 of 1945 SCF)…The Hurricanes have taken a 2-0 series lead for the seventh time in franchise postseason history, including both best-of-five and best-of-seven series. They have gone on to win five of the previous six series in which they took a 2-0 lead, with the lone series loss coming in the best-of-seven 1987 Adams Division Semifinals vs. Quebec (4-2). Carolina owns a 3-3 record in Game 3 when holding a 2-0 series lead in franchise history. When leading Quebec 2-0 in the best-of-five 1986 Adams Division Semifinals, the Whalers closed out the series with a 9-4 home win in Game 3.
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport