Rangers feel the pressure after Game 5 letdown

The Rangers got out to a 3-0 lead in the second round based largely around special teams that proved completely superior to Carolina’s.

But to get the series-clinching victory, that has not been enough.

And it wasn’t on Monday, when the penalty kill continued to play excellent hockey and the Rangers lost 4-1 anyway to send the series back to Raleigh for a suddenly very-nervous Game 6.

The Rangers can’t seem to get their five-on-five game going against the Hurricanes. JASON SZENES FOR THE NEW YORK POST

The Hurricanes still haven’t figured out how to score on the power play, which they failed to do at all three times of asking, with Brady Skjei’s Game 4 winner serving only as inspiration for a Jacob Trouba shorthanded goal.

And that mattered squat after a succession of five-on-five goals for Carolina in the third, courtesy of Jordan Staal, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Jordan Martinook.

“Late in the game, I thought they were smart just getting pucks out of their zone,” Mika Zibanejad said. “I thought we weren’t really connected on our forecheck. Was a quick D-to-D pass and they got the chance to get the puck out. Definitely not our best-executed game.”

A bad period in a bad game, to be sure. But this was in keeping with the trendline of the series, over which Carolina has outscored 11-9 the Rangers at even strength.

Over the first three games, that was canceled out and then some thanks to special teams.

It did not help matters Monday that the power play, which was firing on all cylinders earlier in the series, suddenly looked a little bit off, going a third straight game without a goal and never quite moving the puck as crisply as the Rangers would like.

Hurricanes center Jordan Staal checks New York Rangers center Barclay Goodrow as Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Frederik Andersen defends the net. JASON SZENES FOR THE NEW YORK POST

But this game was lost at even strength, where the Rangers never quite got a foothold on the game and where, scores aside, it’s not clear that they’ve ever quite gotten a foothold on the series.

“We weren’t sharp,” Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said. “It was more than just the third period.”

If there is a reason for the Hurricanes to believe they can do something historic, to believe they can stun the Rangers by winning the next two games to complete a comeback, it is that they can now feel with some justification that a facade has been lifted off the Rangers.

Hurricanes defenseman Brady Skjei tries to check New York Rangers center Matt Rempe. JASON SZENES FOR THE NEW YORK POST

Laviolette, who repeatedly said this loss was not just about the lackluster third period, sounded like someone well aware of that possibility, albeit with his belief still very much intact.

“Anytime they don’t play up to your capabilities, you get concerned about that, yeah,” he said. “What I also know with this group is they’ve had games like that before and they responded. There’s accountability that goes with that from them, themselves and from us. There’s things we need to do better and we’ll do that.”

The Rangers might be able to survive with a middling five-on-five game and they might be able to survive with a middling power play. They absolutely cannot survive with both, and that is what these last two games have featured.

And now the pressure is all on them.

Leave a Comment