The Rangers’ Toronto bubble is already in danger of bursting.
Andrei Svechnikov’s first-career hat-trick lifted the Hurricanes to a 4-1 victory over the Rangers on Monday afternoon, doubling the Rangers’ Stanley Cup Qualifiers series deficit to 2-0, meaning one more loss in the best-of-five series will eliminate them from postseason contention.
Game 3 will be played on Tuesday night, 8 p.m. ET, in the Toronto bubble at Scotiabank Arena.
Carolina used a quick two-goal outburst — one of them belonging to the 20-year-old Svechnikov — in the first few minutes of the second period to break open a 1-1 game and saddle veteran Henrik Lundqvist with his second-straight playoff loss.
With Igor Shesterkin still not ready to start because of undisclosed reasons, the 38-year-old Lundqvist made his 129th-consecutive postseason start for the Rangers.
He made 29 saves on 33 shots in the loss, which did not start out on the right foot.
A penalty taken 16 seconds into the game by Pavel Buchnevich immediately put the Hurricanes on the front foot as they seized momentum from the start. It was hardly the start the Rangers — or hockey fans — wanted to see after the two teams combined to take 14 penalties in Game 1 on Saturday.
It helped them build up to the game’s opening goal just five minutes in when Svechnikov came down the left-wing and snapped a wrist shot under the arm of Lundqvist at the near post. Judging by the veteran netminder’s reaction, it’s one he would’ve liked back.
It didn’t take long after for the Rangers to get on board, though, and their breakthrough also came on the power play.
With six seconds left on a five-on-three opportunity and 7:55 left in the first, Artemi Panarin recorded his first point of the Qualifiers, slotting a tough-angled one-timer over Mrazek after some nifty passing from Anthony DeAngelo and Ryan Strome.
It was a rare Panarin sighting over the first two games of the series, as head coach David Quinn called out his top lines for their lack of contributions following the Game 2 loss.
Had it not been for Petr Mrazek’s glove, it would have been a 3-1 Rangers advantage after the first period, but the Hurricanes netminder made a pair of stellar saves on Brett Howden and Mika Zibanejad on prime scoring chances.
“I was seeing the puck really well today,” Mrazek said. “[Those saves] set the tone for me.”
Mrazek was big once again for Carolina, stopping 23 of 24 shots in the win after allowing just two goals in Game 1.
Those missed chances came back to bite the Rangers quickly in the second period as the Hurricanes snatched two goals in the first 2:22 of the frame. Svechnikov picked up his second of the game just four seconds into a Carolina power play before Jordan Martinook took advantage of a failed clear and bad defense by Filip Chytil to stuff in another just 1:11 later.
Svechnikov finished things off with 5:58 left in the game when he converted a two-on-one break alongside Sebastian Aho, who played a perfect pass on the hat-trick hero’s stick for an easy redirect over Lundqvist.
“We came out hard and played hard. I’m excited to score my first hat-trick, especially against a superstar goalie,” Svechnikov said. “I think we played a really good game.”
“He’s quickly emerging as one of the best players in the league,” Quinn said.
High praise for the opposition as the Rangers look to hold onto their postseason hopes for at least another day.