Members of the Rangers celebrate an empty net goal against the...

Members of the Rangers celebrate an empty net goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during the third period in Game Six of the Second Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena on May 16, 2024 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Credit: Getty Images/Grant Halverson

Standing in the tiny visitor’s locker room at PNC Arena on Thursday night after the Rangers rallied for an improbable 5-3 comeback victory over the Carolina Hurricanes and advanced to the Eastern Conference Final, forward Barclay Goodrow said that yes, the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Rangers did take some offense to being cast as underdogs against Carolina, which finished behind them in the Metropolitan Division regular-season standings.

And yes, they did use that as motivation in their six-game series win over the Hurricanes.

“Yeah, a little bit,’’ Goodrow said. “I think we don’t mind playing that underdog role, you know? Respect’s not given; it’s earned.’’

Well, it’s time the Rangers were given a little respect. They’ve earned it.

The Rangers had a franchise-record — and league-high — 55 wins and 114 points in the regular season. But the detractors insisted they weren’t good enough in five-on-five play and scoffed that their season-long success was the product of an overreliance on their power play and their goaltending. That wouldn’t be sustainable in the playoffs, the doubters said.

The Hurricanes, who have been an elite team for a few years now, were the betting favorites to win the Stanley Cup, mainly because they play a high-pressure, high-shot-volume style that produces all these great analytics. They were a better team than the Rangers, the pundits said.

How did that turn out? The team that analytics disciples love to hate beat the team that carries the analytics flag.

Oh, it’s true, the Hurricanes outplayed the Rangers for large stretches in the series, and the Blueshirts needed goaltender Igor Shesterkin to save their bacon more than a few times. And yes, they did seem to struggle in the games in which their power play couldn’t score.

But over the long haul, six games, their special teams dominated the Hurricanes. They scored five power-play goals in the series — against the team that had the best penalty kill in the league in the regular season — and their penalty kill produced as many shorthanded goals (two) as power-play goals allowed.

Mostly, the Rangers did against the Hurricanes what they did throughout the entire regular season: They found ways to win. They took a 3-0 lead in the series by winning three one-goal games, including one in double overtime (won by a power-play goal) and another in overtime.

Then, in Game 6, when it seemed they were destined to lose and be forced to go to a Game 7, they rallied from 3-1 down in the third period to win on a natural hat trick by their longest-tenured player, Chris Kreider.

Kreider scored on a rebound to bring them back into the game, then scored on a power-play tip-in to tie the score, then banged in a cross-crease feed from defenseman Ryan Lindgren from the net front for the winner.

“I don’t know the stat, but I think we had a decent number [28, including 14 in which they trailed in the third period] of come-from-behind wins this year in the regular season,’’ Kreider said. “It never really felt like we were out of it. And we talk about being a resilient group and a competitive group, and I think we showed that tonight.’’

The Rangers’ appearance in the conference finals is their second in the last three years since they burst out of their three-year rebuild in 2021-22.

Kreider, who has been part of two Rangers groups that were challengers for the Stanley Cup, was asked if the Rangers’ most recent playoff experience helped them stay calm when they were trailing 3-1 in Game 6. He said it was their experience in the regular season that helped more.

“I think after your first [playoff] run with a group . . . you kind of know what playoff hockey is gonna be like. But each series is so different. Each team is so different year to year,’’ he said. “I think it’s just more the experience over the course of the regular season, the way that we prepared and the way that we played over 82 games. I think that has obviously helped us kind of create our identity.’’

The Rangers were the first team to clinch a playoff spot this season and the first team to advance to the second round. On Thursday, they became the first team to advance to the conference finals.

Every challenge they’ve faced, they’ve met. Every task they’ve been given, they’ve handled. All season long, they’ve found a way.

Isn’t it time to stop doubting them?

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