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Rangers eliminated from postseason after Game 3 loss to Hurricanes

Chris Kreider and the Rangers were eliminated from the postseason on Tuesday night. (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

It was only fitting that the Rangers were swept out of the postseason just hours after Tropical Storm Isaias wreaked havoc on New York.

The Carolina Hurricanes overturned a 1-0 second-period deficit to overpower the Rangers in a 4-1 victory and take the best-of-five Stanley Cup Qualifiers series in the minimum three games, crashing New York out of the Toronto bubble.

With their third game in four days, the Hurricanes also opted to make a change in goal from Petr Mrazek, who constantly frustrated the Rangers’ over the first two games. James Reimer got the nod for his first playoff appearance since 2016 and his first postseason start since 2013.

He shined in his postseason return, making 30 saves on 31 shots, including some showstopping denials that could have very well kept the Rangers’ season alive for at least another few days.

The performance overshadowed the return of Igor Shesterkin to New York’s net after he was deemed unfit to play in Games 1 and 2.

Considered the goaltender of the Rangers’ future, he was no match for some of the top-notch skill of Carolina’s first line — particularly in the form of the skill from Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho, who both scored goals in the Hurricanes’ win.

The Rangers got off to their best start of the series and also put their best period together in the first, but had nothing to show for it. Despite outshooting Carolina 14-6 in the opening 20 minutes, the Blueshirts couldn’t find a way to get past Reimer.

They only had to wait 12 seconds into the second period to change that, though.

Right at the start of the frame, Chris Kreider was sent in on the Hurricanes’ zone, split two defenders, and slid across Reimer’s goal to his backhand to finish around the Hurricanes’ netminder:

Out of nothing, the Hurricanes came with a dominant reply, bossing possession for more than a minute in the Rangers’ zone, allowing them to get their top line on the ice while New York defenseman Marc Staal was pinned in without a stick.

Against four equipped Rangers defenders, Teravainen weaved in toward the Rangers’ goal and roofed a backhander over the glove of Shesterkin just 3:06 after Kreider’s opener.

It would remain tied through the second period, but it wasn’t because of a lack of trying from the Rangers. Reimer stood on his head in the final moments of the second to ensure it would remain tied going into the final period.

He first stoned Brendan Lemieux on a breakaway before the rebound squirted back out to the Rangers’ forward. With Reimer out of position, Lemieux lifted a backhander toward the Hurricanes’ net, but defenseman Sami Vatanen stacked the crease and made a save with his shoulder.

As the puck came out and Carolina attempted to reset, the Rangers were able to move the puck to Filip Chytil who had a gaping net, but his wrister was saved in mid-air by the stick of a lunging Reimer:

The missed opportunity came back to haunt the Rangers — a sequence they’ll be thinking about all offseason — when the Hurricanes took the lead with 14:53 to go in the game.

A shot from the point from former Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei was deflected in front twice, the last time by Warren Foegele, which then popped over Shesterkin.

Sebastian Aho provided one of the flashiest daggers ever, putting the Hurricanes up with 9:34 remaining, cutting down the left-wing, dipsy-doodling around Anthony DeAngelo while cutting toward Shesterkin’s net, and lifting a backhander into the back of the net:

Aho would add a second in the form of an empty-netter in the final minute to further ice the Hurricanes’ win.

Now, the Rangers will be hoping for ping-pong balls to help throttle their already-ahead-of-schedule rebuild. Losing the series ensures the Blueshirts will be apart of the second phase of the NHL Draft Lottery, which sees them have a 12.5% chance of getting the No. 1 overall pick and highly-touted prospect Alexis Lafreniere.

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