Mika Zibanejad and Igor Shesterkin lead Rangers to 4-3 victory over Hurricanes in Game 1 of Eastern Conference semifinals

NEW YORK — Mika Zibanejad scored two first-period goals, and Igor Shesterkin‘s 22 saves helped lead the Rangers to a 4-3 victory over the Hurricanes in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals best-of-seven series on Sunday afternoon in front of a sellout crowd of 18,006 at Madison Square Garden.

Zibanejad (four) tied the Rangers’ mark for the longest multi-point streak in the playoffs. Adam Fox (2021-22), Pierre Larouche (1985-86) and Don Maloney (1978-79) also scored in four consecutive games for the Rangers.

Vincent Trocheck also chipped in a goal and an assist. Chris Kreider had two assists as the Rangers won their fifth consecutive playoff game following the sweep of the Capitals last week.

“It’s easy to sit here and talk about it after a win,” Zibanejad said following the game. “You want to get involved, and you score and contribute and help your team, and that’s a good feeling. But it is one game and we have to keep going.”

Shesterkin was fifth in save percentage entering the first game of the series. He continued his strong play by allowing just two goals, and one came on a deflection off a Ranger player’s stick.

With his fifth win of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Shesterkin became the third goaltender in Rangers history — following Mike Richter and Dave Kerr— to record wins in his first five postseason games. Shesterkin’s play was so strong that after a Jordan Staal breakaway save in the second period, the Ranger fans shouted Igor in support of the 28-year-old.

Hurricanes goalie Frederik Andersen, who allowed 2.25 goals per game in the playoffs stopped 19 of 23 shots.

Early on, both teams played a physical, fast style on both ends of the ice, which led to six penalties in the first period.

The Rangers’ power play made a big difference early in the game. They converted each of their power-play opportunities in the first period, scoring nine and 14 seconds on their two power-play goals.

Conversely, the Hurricanes were 0 for 2 on the power play chances during the first 20 minutes. Carolina had multiple scoring opportunities in the first period and only scored one goal. The Hurricanes were 0 for 5 on power play opportunities, which was a significant factor in the game.

“I thought we played a pretty good game,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “We didn’t execute right and they did. We were just a step off and that was the difference.

“I thought we played pretty hard. Other than that 20 seconds of special teams time, I thought we had a good game.”

During the regular season, the Hurricanes had the second-best power play in the NHL and the top penalty-killing unit. Carolina entered Game 1 10th in penalty kill percentage during this postseason (72.7%). They also were also fifth in power play percentage (33.3%).

“I thought the power play was very good, efficient,” Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said. “There are some things we can get better at, but I thought that was definitely a factor.”

It didn’t take long for either team to score their first goal. Just 2:46 into the first period, Jack Roslovic skated around the Hurricanes net and dished a pass to Zibanejad, who scored his second goal this postseason. Fox also was on the assist.

A little more than a minute later, at the 3:48 mark, Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin scored his first goal of the playoffs on a blast that deflected off the Rangers player’s stick. Sebastian Aho and Jake Guentze assisted on the goal.

At the 9:56 mark, Hurricanes defenseman Tony DeAngelo was given a two-minute roughing penalty for hitting Will Cuylle. Six seconds into the Rangers’ power play (10:05), Zibanejad buried his second goal of the game on a play in which everyone on the ice touched the puck, including Chris Kreider and Trocheck, who received assist credits.

With 16:14 into the first period, Hurricanes forward Evgeny Kuznetsov cross-checked Fox in the face. 14 seconds later (16:28), Trocheck cleaned up a rebound and scored his fourth goal of the playoffs to put the Rangers up 3-1. He became the 10th player in Rangers history to register a four-game goal streak in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The last player to do so was Zibanejad, who scored three goals in the Game 1 victory against the Capitals.

With the Rangers up 3-1 in the second period, both teams played more wide-open and less physical than the first. However, neither team could find the net after both teams combined to have 17 shots on goals in that period.

Jacob Trouba was sent to the penalty box for cross-checking two minutes into the second period. However, the Hurricanes couldn’t capitalize on the penalty. Carolina received another power play in the second but did not record a single shot on goal during the advantage.

Carolina scored its second goal of the game early in the third period following passes from Jordan Martinook and Dmitry Orlov. That made the score 3-2 Rangers with 17:12 left in regulation.

The Rangers counted and made the game 4-2 with 11:39 left after Artemi Panarin displayed his speed and put a shot in the back of the net against Andersen.

Carolina pulled Andersen for an extra skater at the three-minute mark. With 1:45 left in the game, Carolina’s Seth Jarvis scored his fourth postseason goal to make the game 4-3. But the Rangers were able to hang on for the one-goal victory.

Game 2 against the Hurricanes will be Tuesday night at The Garden. The time has not been announced.

“The playoffs for me is completely different,” Laviolette said about the Rangers five-game winning streak. “We are going to have to take a look at what we did right and try to bring that back to the table. Look at what we have to do better and bring that to the table.

“It’s the playoffs. We are going to have to elevate our game.”