3 Keys: Hurricanes vs. Rangers, Game 3 of Cup Qualifiers


No. 6 Hurricanes vs. No. 11 Rangers

8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVAS, MSG, FS-CR

Carolina leads best-of-5 series, 2-0

The Carolina Hurricanes will advance into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a second straight season by defeating the New York Rangers in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Tuesday.

Igor Shesterkin will start for the Rangers, after the rookie goalie was ruled unfit to play in the first two games against the Hurricanes. Henrik Lundqvist started Games 1 and 2 and allowed seven goals on 71 shots.

The Hurricanes won the first two games in Toronto, the Eastern Conference hub city, by a combined 7-3, including 4-1 on Monday, when left wing Andrei Svechnikov had his first NHL hat trick and center Sebastian Aho had assists on all three goals.

Teams with a 2-0 lead in a best-of-5 NHL series are 55-1 (98.2 percent), including 39-1 from 1980-86, when the format was last used. The New York Islanders defeated the Washington Capitals in a 1985 series.

Here are 3 keys to Game 3:


1. Best on best

The Hurricanes top six forwards have twice as many points (12-6) as the Rangers top six forwards.

Aho has five points (one goal, four assists), one behind Edmonton Oilers forwards Connor McDavid (four goals, two assists) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (one goal, five assists) for the NHL postseason scoring lead entering Tuesday. Svechnikov had an assist in Game 1 before scoring his hat trick in Game 2. Martin Necas scored the game-winning goal in Game 1.

The Rangers have gotten a goal and an assist each from Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin, but Chris Kreider (one assist) and Ryan Strome (one assist) are their only other top-six forwards with a point through two games. They do not have a point from a bottom-six forward.

“If you’re going to win your best players have to be your best players, and our best players have to outplay their best players,” Rangers coach David Quinn said. “That’s something that we certainly have to have [Tuesday] night.”


2. Special teams

On paper, the special teams battle is even with each team scoring two goals, including a shorthanded goal for the Rangers. But the Hurricanes have not allowed the Rangers power play to generate momentum, a key point for why they’ve dominated at 5-on-5.

The Rangers are 1-for-11 with 10 shots on goal on the power play, including 0-for-7 in Game 1. Their power-play goal was scored by Panarin in a 5-on-3 situation. The power play in general has been too slow and stagnant and it’s bleeding into their 5-on-5 game.

The Hurricanes are 2-for-11 on the power play with a shorthanded goal against, but they have 16 shots on goal on the power play. They’ve been able to generate some momentum off their power plays and penalty kills to drive their 5-on-5 game.


3. Lemieux’s potential impact

Brendan Lemieux will make his series debut in Game 3 after being suspended for the first two games because of an infraction on March 11, the Rangers last game before the season paused.

The left wing could be the shot in the arm the Rangers need with his aggressive, energetic style, especially considering Quinn thinks the Rangers need to simplify their game.

“Sometimes what gets lost on people is how simple this game is in so many ways,” Quinn said. “I mean, it is so simple. You’ve got to outskate people, you’ve got to outhit them, you’ve got to beat them in the middle of the rink, you’ve got to skate faster than them. No matter what your systems are, and systems are important, don’t get me wrong, if you’re not doing those things you’ve got no chance. Right now, we’re not doing those things enough.”


Hurricanes projected lineup

Andrei Svechnikov — Sebastian Aho — Teuvo Teravainen

Nino NiederreiterVincent Trocheck — Martin Necas

Warren FoegeleJordan StaalJustin Williams

Brock McGinnMorgan GeekieJordan Martinook

Jaccob SlavinSami Vatanen

Brady SkjeiJoel Edmundson

Jake GardinerHaydn Fleury

Petr Mrazek

James Reimer

Scratched: Ryan Dzingel, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Clark Bishop, Steven Lorentz, Max McCormick, Jake Bean, Roland McKeown, Anton Forsberg, Alex Nedeljkovic

Unfit to play: Dougie Hamilton, Brett Pesce


Rangers projected lineup

Chris Kreider — Mika Zibanejad — Pavel Buchnevich

Artemi Panarin — Ryan Strome — Kaapo Kakko

Brendan Lemieux — Filip ChytilPhillip Di Giuseppe

Brett HowdenGreg McKeggJulien Gauthier

Brendan SmithJacob Trouba

Ryan LindgrenAdam Fox

Marc StaalTony DeAngelo

Igor Shesterkin

Henrik Lundqvist

Scratched: Tim Gettinger, Steven Fogarty, Vitali Kravtsov, Vinni Lettieri, Danny O’Regan, Brandon Crawley, Libor Hajek, Darren Raddysh, Alexandar Georgiev

Unfit to play: Jesper Fast, Igor Shesterkin


Status report

Neither team had media availability Tuesday morning. … Fast is day-to-day, Quinn said in his postgame media availability Monday.

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