New York Rangers could finish NHL playoff sweep tonight over Carolina Hurricanes

New York Rangers defenseman K’Andre Miller, front left, and Carolina Hurricanes center Jake Guentzel fight for the puck during the first period in Game 2 of their NHL second-round playoff series on Tuesday in New York. (AP photo)

RALEIGH, N.C. — The New York Rangers have carried the form that made them the NHL’s best regular-season team straight into the postseason. And that has them within a win of becoming the first team into the conference finals.

The Rangers visit the Carolina Hurricanes in tonight’s Game 4, with the Presidents’ Trophy winner on the verge of sweeping past the team that finished third in the NHL standings. They’re also the first team in 16 years to start a postseason 7-0 after Thursday’s 3-2 overtime win at Carolina.

“You don’t really even think about it, though,” Rangers forward Jack Roslovic said. “You’re just rolling, you’re playing good hockey. Everybody’s clicking at the right time, the goalies are playing well, the systems seem to be working, the matchups seem to be working. So you just keep on trying to do a lot of the same.”

New York opened the playoffs with a sweep of Washington in Round 1. Another sweep would make them the first team to open the playoffs with eight straight wins since the Edmonton Oilers won nine in a row in 1985 on the way to winning the Stanley Cup, according to Sportradar.

The last team to hit 7-0 was Pittsburgh in 2008 before falling to Detroit in the Cup final. New York also did it in 1994 on the way to their most recent Cup win. Now they’ll try to close out the Hurricanes on their home ice in front of a typically boisterous crowd.

New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider, left, celebrates his goal with center Mika Zibanejad, next to him, while Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Tony DeAngelo skates away during the second period in Game 3 of their NHL Stanley Cup second-round playoff series on Thursday in Raleigh, N.C. (AP photo)

For Carolina, the Hurricanes are facing a grim and familiar reality, especially after acquiring forward Jake Guentzel at the trade deadline in a signal that the team viewed this year as its best shot to go all-in as a multi-year Cup contender under Rod Brind’Amour.

In Denver, Valeri Nichushkin keeps finding the net this postseason for the Colorado Avalanche, even when not getting his stick on the puck. He now has a chance to break a 32-year-old NHL record when their second-round Western Conference gets to Game 3.

With a goal in all seven games so far, the latest on a puck that ricocheted off his right leg in Game 2 at Dallas, Nichushkin matched Pat LaFontaine’s mark for longest goal streak to open a postseason (for Buffalo in 1992). That also equaled the Avs’ franchise record for overall playoff streak with Claude Lemieux and Joe Sakic.

While 2013 Stars’ first-round pick Nichushkin is on a record scoring streak, some of the current Dallas players may finally be finding their offensive game.

The only point top-line center Roope Hintz had in the Stars’ first eight playoff games was an empty-net goal. But he had a goal and three assists in their 5-3 win Thursday night that tied the series at a game apiece.

Six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin got his first goal in these playoffs with a short-hander that proved to be the deciding tally in Game 2. Esa Lindell got his first on a late empty-netter with an assist from Hintz, who also had helpers on both of defenseman Miro Heiskanen’s two power-play goals.

“Those guys want to win. They want to be difference makers, they’re used to being difference makers,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “So it’s critical that those guys started to score, and we got scoring from the right guys.”


AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins in Dallas contributed to this report.


AP NHL playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://apnews.com/hub/nhl


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