Hurricanes’ ‘sometimes-stars’ return in key Game 5 win

Carolina's success-by-committee formula returned in a 3-1 victory over the Rangers

Hurricanes forward Andrei Svechnikov puts the puck past Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin for a goal during Carolina's 3-1 win Thursday in Game 5 of their second round playoff series. (Chris Seward / AP Photo)

RALEIGH — You need your best players to be at their best to win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

And the Hurricanes’ best might have finally shown up for their second round series against the New York Rangers.

Sebastian Aho may not have had any points in Thursday’s Game 5 — he did hit the iron twice — but he showed up on the scoresheet with a career-high five blocked shots as Carolina held the Rangers to just 17 shots on goal.

Vincent Trocheck, without a point in his last six games, finished off a beautiful pass from Jordan Staal for a shorthanded goal.

Tony DeAngelo picked up his first point of the series with an assist on Teuvo Teravainen’s power play goal in the second period, which also ended Carolina’s five-game drought with the man advantage.

And Andrei Svechnikov, searching for his scoring touch all postseason, found it in the third period, finishing a breakaway and sealing the Hurricanes’ 3-1 win to give them another victory at PNC Arena and a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven series.

“Everyone played well,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “It’s kind of the game that I’ve been waiting for.”

Staal and Jaccob Slavin, the team’s two pillars of consistency, have been their usual selves, with Staal erasing whatever assignment he’s given and Slavin sweeping pucks off Rangers’ sticks like the world’s best janitor.

But while they’re a big reason why the Hurricanes had their best regular season in franchise history, it has been the team’s depth — with its ability to have a different player be the hero on any given shift — that has been the real star of the team.

And it had been missing most of the postseason — until Thursday.

Sure, Ian Cole, Max Domi and Brendan Smith had their big moments, and Antti Raanta has silenced all his doubters by being perhaps the best goalie of the playoffs’ first two rounds.

But on a team without a true superstar, the Hurricanes have always relied on their sometimes-stars to step up at different times.

They’re the “Not Ready For Primetime Players” of the NHL, and the skit they performed Thursday struck a perfect tone.

“I don’t know how to explain it, to be honest with you,” Brind’Amour said of the team’s power play suddenly coming back to life, though he might as well have been opining about his team’s ability to do what they do without a McDavid or a Makar.

Even the players who broke through Thursday shrugged off the idea of a weight being lifted off their shoulders.

“A little bit relieved,” Svechnikov said, “but the next day for me is going to be the same. I’m gonna work hard.”

Trocheck, who had five points in the first round but didn’t get his first in the New York series until his shorthanded goal, seemed even less interested in the personal numbers.

“If you were to tell our team, anybody on our team, you tell them that they have zero points in the playoffs and win the Stanley Cup, I don’t think any of us would care,” he said.

There are still questions to be answered.

Can the Hurricanes’ power play match its success from Game 5? Will Svechnikov, Trocheck and DeAngelo build off their performances?

Most importantly, can the Hurricanes finally find a way to win on the road after losing their first five games of the postseason away from PNC Arena?

“You just do it,” Trocheck said. “There’s no formula for it.”

Carolina, however, seemed to rediscover their formula Thursday. There wasn’t a hat trick or a 50-save effort in goal. One player didn’t hoist the team on its back and carry it to victory.

Instead, it was small moments, like 20-year-old rookie Seth Jarvis making the pass to Teravainen for his power play goal and then on his next shift taking a shaft of the stick to the mouth trying to block a shot. He went for the locker room but left behind a pool of blood, only to return less than four minutes later.

“It’s not pretty,” Brind’Amour said of Jarvis’ bloated lower lip. “I give him a lot of credit. This kid’s growing on me every day.”

And the team that Brind’Amour molded in his image is finally showing it’s ready for primetime.

“I don’t usually take a lot of stock in one game into the next, good or bad,” Brind’Amour said. “It’s always about the next game and it takes a life of its own.

“But that’s definitely the way we want to do it.”