Hurricanes ‘live to fight another day’

Carolina has won back-to-back games after falling in a 3-0 series hole to the Rangers

Hurricanes center Evgeny Kuznetsov celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal in the third period of Game 5 against the Rangers in Carolina’s 4-1 win Monday in New York. (Adam Hunger / AP Photo)

NEW YORK — Outside “The World’s Most Famous Arena” is a poster of Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder with the quote, “You ain’t nothin’ until you play Madison Square Garden.”

After the Carolina Hurricanes, on their sixth try, finally won the franchise’s first playoff game at MSG, beating the New York Rangers 4-1 Monday, the motto for the teams’ second round matchup may as well be, “It ain’t a series until you win at Madison Square Garden.”

The Hurricanes turned a one-goal deficit and a seemingly looming shutout for Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin into a two-goal lead in just 6:22 of game time in the third period, getting goals from Jordan Staal, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Jordan Martinook to shock the Rangers and send the series back to Raleigh for a Game 6 on Thursday.

“It’s two beautiful teams that (are) competing against each other,” Kuznetsov said, “and it’s a dogfight now.”

After losing the series’ first three games, the Hurricanes followed up their thrilling win Sunday at PNC Arena with a feverish comeback on the Rangers’ home ice.

Now the Presidents’ Trophy winners, who won their first seven games of the postseason, will have to trudge back to Raleigh with the series back on its logical track — a 3-2 New York series lead with the Rangers having had three games at home. Carolina is only halfway toward becoming the fifth team in NHL history to erase a 3-0 series deficit and win a best-of-seven matchup, but the pressure has shifted squarely onto the shoulders of Peter Laviolette’s team.

“Any time you don’t play up to your capabilities, you get concerned about that,” the former Hurricanes-turned-Rangers coach said. “But I also know that this group has had games like that before, and they responded. There’s accountability that goes with that from themselves.”

When New York defenseman Jacob Trouba scored a shorthanded goal at 6:23 of the second period, it felt like Carolina’s power play — and Shesterkin — would be the death of the Hurricanes.

Instead, after mostly relying on their top line in the first four games of the series, the Hurricanes got one goal after another from their complementary players to keep their season alive.

First it was the captain, Staal, who took advantage of a weary Braden Schneider — and a brilliant pass from Dmitry Orlov — to power his way to the goal mouth and backhand a shot past Shesterkin’s left pad to tie the game at 3:33 of the third period.

“I just love people get to see, in that game, what he can do and what he means to this team,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “Because that was vintage Jordan Staal there.”

It was Staal’s second point of the postseason and his first goal, but it came at the biggest moment of the season.

“There’s been a lot of guys telling me I’m gonna score,” Staal said. “I told them after the game, ‘It’s better late than never.”

Martinook, Staal’s frequent linemate over the past six seasons, said it wasn’t just Staal’s goal that inspired him and his teammates.

“The whole game he was leading us,” Martinook said, “and when you got a guy that does it the same way every night, just plays the same style, in your face, hard — everyone wants to jump on, and that’s what your captain does.”

The mood of the game quickly changed, and it wasn’t long before Carolina took the lead.

Just over three minutes after Staal’s equalizer, Frederik Andersen (20 saves) made a pad save that defenseman Tony DeAngelo quickly cleared, and the Hurricanes headed up ice.

Stefan Noesen passed left to Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who dropped the puck back to Brady Skjei for a one-timer. Kuznetsov fought off Artemi Panarin and fired in the rebound to silence the MSG crowd at 6:39.

“He’s got that ability, right?” Brind’Amour said. “Just silky smooth and has a great offensive feel, there’s no doubt about it.”

Then Martinook, who had to basically fight off teammate Jack Drury to get off a shot from Martin Necas’ centering feed, also scored to put a dagger in the Rangers with 10:04 left in the game.

“Don’t touch it! Don’t touch it!” Martinook said he yelled to Drury as Necas’ centering pass came from behind the net and into the slot. Drury — whose gutsy pair of blocks helped kill off New York’s final power play opportunity of the game — did get a piece of the puck, but Martinook was still able to snap home his shot.

“He got a little piece of it and calmed it down,” Martinook said.

Carolina didn’t even need Necas’ empty-net goal with 3:31 left to calm the home crowd, which was streaming toward the exits as Necas’ long-range bid found the center of the empty New York net, surely wondering if they’d be back inside Madison Square Garden on Saturday for a Game 7.

The Hurricanes aren’t quite there yet — there will be two off days before Thursday’s Game 6 at PNC Arena — but what four days ago seemed like “nothin’” is now something.

“We trusted our game and ended up paying off,” Staal said. “And we live to fight another day.”

Notes: Both teams went 0 for 3 on the power play. … The Hurricanes are 6-0 in playoff games all time when Drury, who had two assists, registers a point. … Carolina won just 17 of 51 faceoffs.