Rookies lead Hurricanes past the Rangers

Aho gets two, giving him 20 goals on the season, and Zykov scores in his NHL debut

James Guillory—USA TODAY Sports
Hurricanes forward Valentin Zykov (second from left in red)celebrates his first NHL goal with forward Sebastian Aho (right of Zykov) and defensemen Brett Pesce (22) against the New York Rangers PNC Arena on March 9.

RALEIGH — Sebastian Aho got his second power play goal of the third period — the rookie’s 20th tally of the season — with less than eight minutes remaining to push the Hurricanes past the New York Rangers 4-3 on Thursday at PNC Arena.From below the goal line, Hurricanes forward Elias Lindholm fed Jordan Staal the puck, and Staal quickly zipped the puck to Aho for a one-timer into a wide-open net with 7:32 remaining to complete Carolina’s third-period comeback.”It’s a nice number, I guess,” Aho, who had added an assist as well, said of reaching 20 goals. “But I didn’t have many [personal] goals for when I get here, I didn’t think about it. But it’s a nice number.”Five of the game’s seven goals came on the power play, with the Rangers twice taking the lead courtesy a man-advantage goal.”It was a crazy specialty teams game for sure,” Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. “You know, they got the jump on it obviously. All three of their goals, 3 for 6 [on the power play].” The Rangers got their first early thanks to a pair of Hurricanes penalties.With Derek Ryan in the box for four minutes after he cut Rangers forward Kevin Hayes with a high stick, Lindholm joined him after a tripping call. The Rangers converted on the two-man advantage at 7:24 of the first period when — with Carolina goalie Cam Ward down and out in the crease — Chris Kreider punched the puck in the net from one knee to make it 1-0.The home team responded later in the period on back-to-back shifts, courtesy of Carolina’s forechecking.Victor Rask, who earlier kept the puck in along the right boards, grabbed a Rangers turnover inside the blue line and fed it to Jeff Skinner alone in front. Skinner did the rest, going to his backhand and putting the puck past New York’s Antti Raanta to tie the score at 13:15.On the next shift, the guy making his NHL debut got his first NHL goal.Valentin Zykov, called up Wednesday from Charlotte of the AHL, jarred the puck loose in the corner against Rangers defenseman Marc Staal and got to the front of the net. After Rantaa couldn’t handle an Aho shot, Zykov beat Marc Staal and Ryan McDonagh to the rebound and snuck a backhand into the net just 29 seconds after Skinner’s goal for a 2-1 Hurricanes lead.”I expected it to be not the prettiest one, but it’s a goal,” Zykov said of his first NHL score. “That’s all that matters.”Peters said too often this season the Hurricanes have lacked a net-front presence, and the 6-foot-1, 224-pound Zykov delivered on his reputation as a player who is willing to go there.”That’s how he was described,” Peters said when asked about Zykov manning the paint much of the night. “You’ve gotta be at the net though, too. He’s smart enough to know that. He was at the net 5 on 5. We used him on the power play and we’ll continue to do that here while he’s up and see what he does. I thought he was fine tonight for his first game. I’m sure he was a little bit nervous, but settled in and gave us some good minutes.”The Rangers power play got more chances in the second period and forward Mika Zibanejad benefitted. With Rask in the box for closing his hand on the puck, New York took just 19 seconds to convert. Ward stopped an initial point shot but couldn’t corral the puck, and Zibanejad beat Jaccob Slavin to it and whacked it in at 7:16 of the second period to make it 2-2.After Ryan Murphy took a tripping penalty in the final five minutes of the second, Zibanejad was gifted the puck on a failed clearing attempt by Hurricanes center Jay McClement. He ripped a shot through Ward from the slot for his second goal of the period and a 3-2 New York lead.”You look at their three goals on the power play, we kind of created our own problems, and we were able to correct that in the second intermission and they started to do the same,” said Ward, who made a season-high 40 saves in earning his 22nd win and first since Feb. 4.Peters, who had started Eddie Lack the past two games, liked Ward’s response to being back in net. “He made some big saves when we needed them,” Peters said. “A couple of [the goals], nothing he can do about it. The 5-on-3 [goal] and then obviously we turn one over there too on the penalty kill point blank.” Carolina too would need their power play — which looked toothless through two periods — to rally in the third period.Near the final period’s midway point, it did just that.Zykov drew a tripping call to give Carolina a chance to make up ground in the special teams battle, and Aho one-timed a nifty behind-the-back pass from Teuvo Teravainen from the point and through an Elias Lindholm screen to knot the game at 3-3. The Rangers challenged the call after Raanta complained of contact with Lindholm, but the goal was ruled good.”I thought if anybody initiated the contact outside the blue paint it was probably the goaltender,” Peters said. “And I don’t blame him. I think probably the goaltender couldn’t see anything and he’s screened by the net-front presence, then all of a sudden he goes, ‘Eh, I’ll throw the dice and maybe initiate a little contact.’ That what it looks like to me.”Rangers coach Alain Vigneault was on the other side of the argument.”You ask the league that, but they’re going to spin it so they look all right and that’s the way it always is,” he said.Notes: Derek Stepan finished with 10 shots and two assists. … The Rangers outshot Carolina 43-30, including 29-12 through two periods. The Hurricanes had 18 shots in the third period. … Carolina had 12 penalty minutes for the third time this season. The previous two were on the road. Their season-high was 13 on Feb. 11 in Dallas. … Patrick Brown had four hits in a team-low 8:55 of ice time. … Aho spent 1:20 on the penalty kill and had two shorthanded scoring chances, including one that nullified a New York power play.