Category 5: Hurricanes aim to even series in Game 2 vs. Rangers

Hurricanes forward Jake Guentzel and Rangers center Mika Zibanejad fight for the puck during Sunday’s Game 1 of their NHL playoff series. (Julia Nikhinson / AP Photo)

NEW YORK — The Hurricanes will look to seize home-ice advantage in their second round series when the Rangers host Carolina on Tuesday in Game 2 at Madison Square Garden. New York won Game 1 4-3, using a perfect night on special teams to take a 1-0 series lead.

1. It didn’t appear Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour will change his lines for the start of Game 2 based on Monday’s practice, which took place in Newark at the Devils’ Prudential Center.

Carolina ended its season with its top line of Sebastian Aho centering Jake Guentzel and Seth Jarvis producing at an unreal clip, but the trio sputtered in the first round and was split up. Brind’Amour flipped Jarvis with Andrei Svechnikov — arguably the Hurricanes’ best forward against the Islanders — but still hasn’t seen the top line click the way it did after Guentzel was acquired at the trade deadline from Pittsburgh.

It’s not that they haven’t had their chances. Aho and Guentzel have both been credited with six high-danger 5-on-5 chances through six postseason games, but they have totaled a combined four points at full strength.

I opined before the series that the matchup could come down to which of Guentzel and Mika Zibanejad perform better, and Zibanejad had two goals and an assist in Game 1.

Guentzel has just three 5-on-5 goals in 23 games with the Hurricanes and was in all the right places in Game 1, but he was unable to finish any of his chances. Guentzel led all players in Game 1 with nine shot attempts and five shots on goal.

“I think he had a post (Sunday) on the power play in tight,” Brind’Amour said. It feels like every other game he’s rung one off the post. He’s been around it. We’ve just got to keep getting him those opportunities.”

2. The Hurricanes have certainly hit their share of posts this postseason — more than any team in the playoffs. Here is a rundown of hit posts and crossbars by team in this postseason, according to, along with each team’s leader.

Boston: 8 in eight games; Charlie Coyle with one post and one crossbar
Carolina: 12 in six games; Brady Skjei leads the league with three posts
Colorado: 6 in fives games; Cale Makar with one post and one crossbar
Dallas: 4 in seven games; Wyatt Johnston with two posts
Edmonton: 4 in five games; Two posts each for Leon Draisaitl and Zach Hyman
Florida: 4 in six games
Los Angeles: 1 in five games
Nashville: 6 in six games
Islanders: 2 in five games
Rangers: 2 in five games
Tampa Bay: 3 in five games
Toronto: 9 in seven games; Auston Matthews with two posts and a crossbar
Vancouver: 4 in six games; Brock Boeser with two posts
Vegas: 9 in seven games; Two posts each for Jonathan Marchessault and Alex Pietrangelo
Washington: 1 post in four games

3. The Hurricanes could certainly use more goals like their second in Game 1. Defenseman Dmitry Orlov carried the puck up ice and made a nice saucer pass to forward Jordan Martinook for a zone entry. Martinook then quickly spotted Martin Necas streaking through the middle of the ice, finding him for a pass in stride. Necas finished his chance alone on Igor Shesterkin to cut the Rangers’ lead to 3-2 early in the third.

It was the kind of play that wasn’t available to Carolina in the opening round against the Islanders, and it’s surely something the Hurricanes would love to exploit further in the remainder of this series.

“They play the 1-3-1 neutral zone,” Neca said, “so that’s completely different than what the Islanders play. … They’re an offensive team too, so they’re trying to score. So it’s a little different than playing against the Islanders.”

The 1-3-1 trap was implemented by Peter Laviolette when he took over as the Rangers’ coach this season, an effort to tighten up New York’s game following Gerard Gallant’s more “go play, boys!” coaching style.

The Rangers’ defensive scheme isn’t rigid, but opportunities like the one Necas had are available if the timing is right.

“We all have an idea of how you want to do things,” Brind’Amour said. “You draw it up and sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. On that play, it was certainly (Necas’) speed that got it, but there was a method in there beforehand.”

4. Hurricanes defenseman Dylan Coghlan spent nearly the entire season playing for the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds, earning an All-Star Classic invite. Now he’s seemingly next man up on Carolina’s defense with Brett Pesce already out of the lineup, and he’ll need to be ready if his opportunity arises.

“I think it’s just more mental side of it, which I feel like has been one of the stronger sides of the my last three or four years since I’ve been in the NHL, and just trying to keep positive attitude,” he said.

Coghlan did say it was tough to go to Springfield, the affiliate for the St. Louis Blues, and play a different system than the Hurricanes play, though he quickly reacquainted himself upon rejoining Carolina at the end of the season.

“The cardio and the mindset is there, so I’m ready whenever,” he said.

5. Max Comtois seemed to get a pretty long look on the fourth line during Monday’s practice, rotating with Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen.

Comtois never played in the playoffs during his five seasons with the Ducks and hasn’t played a postseason game since he joined the San Diego Gulls in the 2019 AHL playoffs after his QMJHL team, Drummondville, was eliminated from the postseason. He fared pretty well that year: With the Voltigeurs, he had 11 goals and 15 points in 16 games, and he followed that with five goals and nine points in 12 games with the Gulls.

“If I ever get the call, then I’m just ready to go,” said the 25-year-old forward.

If Comtois were to play, it would likely be in place of Kotkaniemi, since both Kuznetsov and Noesen are mainstays on Carolina’s second power play. Kotkaniemi is the only Hurricanes player who has played in all six postseason games and not registered a point.