RALEIGH — There were three familiar faces in the New York Rangers’ lineup Friday, and the Carolina Hurricanes are probably glad they won’t see them again this season.
The Rangers used two goals off Carolina defenders’ skates to build a lead and wore down the home team, winning 5-2 in front of a sellout crowd of 18,680 at PNC Arena and sweeping the season series four games to none.
With the game tied at 1, New York forward Jesper Fast’s pass hit Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce’s skate and went in the net at 9:48 of the second period to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Just over six minutes later, Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei circled the Carolina net and centered the puck, which hit Hurricanes defenseman Jake Gardiner’s skate and bounced in for a 3-1 lead.
“We always say you earn your breaks, and they got a few tonight,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said.
It was former Hurricanes draft pick Julien Gauthier’s second game in Rangers blue, joining his former Charlotte Checkers teammate Phil Di Giuseppe and one-time Carolina prospect Adam Fox in the New York lineup.
But it was the Rangers’ big guns that did the most damage.
New York opened the scoring when Carolina captain Jordan Staal took an ill-advised shot from the blue line that was easily blocked by Rangers center Mika Zibanejad and taken the other way. Zibanejad went to his backhand on Petr Mrazek (31 saves), lifting the puck into the top of the net for a 1-0 New York lead at 16:41 of the first.
The Hurricanes did manage to tie the game early in the second.
Staal came out of the box after serving a slashing penalty and left the puck for Brock McGinn. McGinn, playing his 300th NHL game, weaved into the slot and ripped a shot past rookie Igor Shesterkin (27 saves) to tie the game at 3:25 of the middle frame.
“It’s cool,” McGinn said of scoring in his 300th game. “It goes quick, but I would’ve rather had the two points tonight.”
The Rangers then took control, outshooting Carolina 19-8 in the second and scoring twice off Carolina skates.
“We had our bad bounces because they were working for them,” Staal said. “We know when our game’s going, we continue to push and work, that we’re going to get some good bounces. I think tonight, we have to be more desperate, and it wasn’t there. It’s frustrating this time of year.”
The Hurricanes’ frustration seemed to boil over at times, particularly when they took two bad penalties with the Rangers up two.
First, an offensive zone slash on Justin Williams near the end of the second led to an Artemi Panarin goal 70 seconds into the third.
Then a slew foot behind the play by Warren Foegele on Fox negated any momentum Carolina might have had after Sebastian Aho scored his 35th goal of the season on the power play with just under 15 minutes remaining to cut the Hurricanes’ deficit to two.
“I think you’ve got to let those slide,” McGinn said of taking frustration penalties. “You’ve got to keep your cool. You’re not going to score goals from in the penalty box, so I think the less penalties we take, the more offense we’ll get.”
The loss dropped Carolina out of the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference with 72 points, though they trail Columbus by just one point with two games in hand.
“This time of year we’ve got to win games,” Staal said. “So we’ve got to focus on the next shift and whatever bounces do come, you’ve got to be mentally tough to keep moving forward.”
Notes: Ryan Strome scored an empty-net goal with 1:48 left. … Aho and Andrei Svechnikov extended their points streaks to 11 and nine games, respectively. … The Rangers blocked 24 Carolina shots, including 17 in the first period. … Shesterkin is now 7-1-0 in his first eight NHL starts and has won six straight. … Gauthier played just 5:25 and had two penalty minutes for the Rangers. … Jaccob Slavin played a game-high 26:10 and had two assists.