Category 5: ‘Dog fight’ op tap for Game 5 of Hurricanes-Rangers

Rangers forward Alex Wennberg looks to pass the puck while chased by Hurricanes forward Jordan Martinook during Game 4 of their series Saturday at PNC Arena. (Karl B. DeBlaker / AP Photo)

NEW YORK — The Hurricanes will look to take another step in their comeback effort against the Rangers on Monday at Madison Square Garden when the teams meet in Game 5 of their second round series. New York leads the series 3-1 and will take a second crack at eliminating Carolina.

1. Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour was noncommittal about who would start in net for Game 5, though Frederik Andersen was in the visiting starter’s crease and first off the ice after Monday’s morning skate.

“Maybe,” Brind’Amour said when I asked if Andersen would be the starter.

The coach said Sunday that he would see how Andersen and Pyotr Kochetkov felt, consult with goaltending coach Paul Schonfelder and make a decision. So how is the final decision made?

“A lot goes into it now just because. obviously, that’s the No. 1 concern, ‘OK, how are you feeling?’” Brind’Amour said. “And then (we) had a good rotation going, do we go back to that just based on that was when we had our most success. There’s been a lot of discussions.”

Andersen allowed a total of eight goals on 54 shots in Games 1 and 2 at MSG, taking the loss in both, but had been 6-2-0 in eight regular season appearances at The Garden.

Jordan Martinook said Sunday the team was comfortable with whoever got the nod.

“It doesn’t really matter which guy’s in there,” he said. “We have full faith in whichever one is in between the pipes. You look at Kooch, his Game 3 was pretty incredible. And Freddie made some big stops last night and big ones at key moments, and I feel like that’s kind of what you need in those games, that if it goes the other way then you’re chasing even more.”

The Rangers will certainly go back to Igor Shesterkin, who is 13-4 in his career at home in the postseason. Carolina did put a chink in Shesterkin’s armor in Game 4, becoming the first team in 30 playoff games to score more than three goals on the New York goalie.

“It’s always nice to get four on a good goalie, but he’s a good goalie for a reason,” captain Jordan Staal said after Monday’s morning skate. “I’m sure he’s gonna come back with a better effort, so we’re gonna have to try to find a way to do it again and create as much offense as we can against a good goalie.

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov was a healthy extra in Game 2 but returned for Game 3 and then opened the scoring in Game 4. He wasn’t ready to talk about being scratched — “It’s a probably conversation for another day,” he said Sunday — but he certainly seemed ready for another do-or-die game.

“All I want to say, it’s just going to be a dog fight tomorrow,” he said Sunday at PNC Arena. “There is one bowl of food and two dogs (are) going to compete (with) each other.

“And they know that they don’t want to come back here. They know it’s going to be hell here. And they want to finish out there, and what we’re trying to do, we’re just trying to put the pressure on them a little bit. … It’s just about compete and then the dog fight.”

3. Much was made of the Hurricanes finally scoring on the power play in Game 4, but Carolina’s penalty kill was also important.

Sure, it only had to kill one penalty, but it was an important one. With the Hurricanes up 3-1 in the first period, Staal was called for tripping with 2:30 left in the opening frame. A Rangers goal would likely sap the momentum Carolina built in the first period, and attempting the kill without Staal made it even tougher.

But the Hurricanes responded by denying zone entries and looking more like the PK that ranked first in the NHL in the regular season than the one that had allowed seven goals on 24 chances before Game 4.

“I felt like that kill last night was probably our best one,” Martinook said. “We had pressure and we were on it. I think that was just the intensity of the game. … It was a big, big moment in the game for us to be able to get that killed off in the way we did.”

4. Staal, who watching from the box, agreed the one kill in Game 4 was key.

“(Sebastian Aho) did a great job of winning that first draw,” Staal said, “and then once you get it out of the zone, we did a good job of keeping it out of the offensive zone for them. And that’s what a good PK does is just limit their chances at the net, and it starts with a big win by Fish and we were able to keep them from any zone time at all, and it was nice to see.”

The Carolina captain would of course prefer the Hurricanes stay out of the box altogether on Monday night.

“That would be nice,” he said. “It’s easier said than done. The refs may have a different say in that. There’s going to be penalties, so if we’re gonna want to pull this off, it’s always a key part of big wins.”

Brind’Amour agreed the PK can build momentum, though he too would prefer his team limit the number of chances.

“We’ve seen in this series where they get a good kill and what it does,” Brind’Amour said. “Those are crucial times of the game for both teams. That’s been kind of the series, it keeps getting boiled down to that because the two teams are pretty evenly matched, I think.”

5. After a combined 28 power plays in the first three games of the series, Game 4 had only three. Brind’Amour wasn’t ready to say the referees were limiting their calls as the series advances.

“You just don’t know game to game how it’s gonna be called, what’s gonna transpire,” he said. “So I don’t really know what to say on that. We could see 10 tonight. We just gotta be ready either way.”

I asked Brind’Amour if he checks who is officiating the game — for Game 5, it’s Dan O’Rourke and Francois St. Laurent — to determine which way it could go.

“Yes and no,” he said. “I think some guys have a tendency to call more stuff, some guys let it play out. But at this stage of the season, these are the top guys and they have a good feel for letting the boys play.”

According to, O’Rourke and St. Laurent were 22nd and 21st, respectively, in power play opportunities per game during the regular season with the number of chances each way being right near 50-50 (51% edge for the home team by O’Rourke, 49.2% for St. Laurent).

The Hurricanes were 3-0-0 this season in regular season games officiated by O’Rourke and 6-0-1 in games involving St. Laurent. The Rangers had similar success: 2-1-0 with O’Rourke and 4-0-0 with St. Laurent.

Neither have officiated in this series, but St. Laurent was on for Game 2 against the Islanders — a 5-3 Carolina win that included 126 penalties, most in the game’s final minute.