RALEIGH, N.C. — There are bumps in every streak.
The Rangers had dominated the Carolina Hurricanes since 2011, posting a 19-2-0 record. But this season’s Hurricanes have youngsters and speed similar to the Rangers, and in their home opener Friday night, goaltender Cam Ward made far more stops than Henrik Lundqvist in a 3-2 Carolina win in front of a sellout crowd at PNC Arena.
The Rangers could not handle a persistent forecheck or Jeff Skinner. He scored twice and appeared to complete a hat trick at the end of the second period, but his shot was ruled to have been deflected in by Bryan Bickell for what proved to be the winning goal.
That triggered a rainstorm of baseball caps given to fans for the home opener. They didn’t get them back, and the Rangers didn’t recover, either.
“I think there were three guys in the lane and somehow [Skinner] goes through everyone,” Lundqvist said. “I was shocked when I saw it in the net. It just had eyes. To give up a goal that late . . . The way we were playing, it felt like we were going to get this one. That’s a tough one. Still a lot of good things out there, but again, to give that one up still bothers me.”
So the Rangers, who had won three in a row, dropped to 5-3 and wasted a two-goal effort by Mats Zuccarello. Ward had 28 saves, Lundqvist 18. The Hurricanes held the Rangers to seven shots in the third period.
“I thought we could have done a better job generating in the third,” Derek Stepan said. “We tried to get a push, and for whatever reason, we just weren’t able to get quality looks. They did a good job clogging it up, getting turnovers.”
After two periods, Skinner and Zuccarello had four of the goals in a five-goal game.
At the beginning of the second, Skinner broke a tie at 1 when he sped past Kevin Klein, gathered in a stretch pass and beat Lundqvist with a backhander at the 33-second mark.
Zuccarello’s second came when Ryan McDonagh fed him a long pass and he fired under Ward from between the circles at 12:17. Lundqvist received the secondary assist.
Pavel Buchnevich, who had missed five games with back spasms, was involved early. After playing every other game on the right side, he played on the left with Mika Zibanejad and Zuccarello.
With Justin Faulk in the penalty box in the first period for flipping the puck over the glass, Buchnevich skated to the crease from the right side and tried to jam a rebound under Ward. Ron Hainsey put him in a headlock and wrestled him to the ice, and the puck squirted to Zuccarello, who fired it into the net at 8:31 for his first goal.
The goal was challenged by the Hurricanes but denied, and the Rangers led 1-0. The review found no goaltender interference by Buchnevich, so Zuccarello had his third goal of the season, with assists from Buchnevich and Zibanejad.
But the Hurricanes found their legs. Skinner curled in from the right corner and fired past Lundqvist to tie it at 12:34.
“They were quick to pucks, they pinch a lot, their ‘D’ had great gap,” Dan Girardi said. “We were trying, but we weren’t getting through. Would’ve been nice to get a little more action in the third. We just couldn’t get on the inside.”