Hurricanes counting on home success to offset road troubles
By AARON BEARD
The Carolina Hurricanes have been perfect at home in the Stanley Cup playoffs. They've had to be.
The Hurricanes are back in Raleigh for Thursday night's Game 5 against the New York Rangers, looking once again to climb into the lead of a playoff series with the support of a rowdy home crowd. That's because they have lost every road game, the latest coming Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden that allowed the Rangers to even their second-round series.
That only shrinks the margin for error as the series wears on, even with home-ice advantage.
"It's a best-of-3 series now and we've been in this position before," defenseman Brett Pesce said Wednesday. "We should have the confidence to pull it out."
The split between the Hurricanes' home and road results is drastic.
The Hurricanes are the first NHL team to win its first six postseason home games since 2017, and they boast a plus-13 goal differential in pulling off the feat. They are a lowly 0-5 on the road with a minus-14 differential - a startling performance for a division champion that was tied with the Rangers and three other teams with an NHL-best 25 road wins during the regular season.
The Hurricanes haven't stayed out of the box on the road, where they have committed 28 penalties for an average of 13:48 in minutes served compared with 24 penalties for an average of 8:20 minutes at home.
More glaringly, Carolina's power play has been struggling since the final weeks of the regular season. Carolina is just 9 for 89 (10.1%) over its last 28 games dating to late March, including 5 for 45 (11.1%) in the postseason.
"In the last two games, we did hit two posts on our power play," Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour. "We're there, it's just they've got to go in."
While the Hurricanes are 0 for 9 in this series, New York has capitalized by scoring a power-play goal in each of their Game 3 and Game 4 home wins. Those loom large in a defensive-minded series between the teams that surrendered the fewest regular-season goals in the NHL.
"It's not just the two at home, but the four games have been pretty much one-goal games most of the way through," Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said after Tuesday's win. "We're two teams that are close and battling. I just think it's been outstanding hockey by both teams."
The Hurricanes ousted Boston in Round 1 by holding serve at home and winning Game 7. They could advance again the same way in this series and they would also have the home-ice advantage against reigning two-time Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay in the East final.
Any home stumble could be devastating if Carolina can't solve its road issues.
"The games are all tight, they're all close," Brind'Amour said. "A bounce here, there. We just didn't get them on the road. . It's not a road game, the next one. So I'm not worried about the road right now."
OILERS at FLAMES, Edmonton leads 3-1 (9:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN)
The Battle of Alberta opened with Edmonton unable to keep up with Calgary in a 15-goal frenzy. Now the Oilers are a win from the Western Conference finals.
The Oilers have won three straight since the 9-6 road loss in Game 1 under interim coach Jay Woodcroft, who went from leading the team's American Hockey League affiliate to replacing the fired Dave Tippett in February for a team sitting six points outside the playoff race.
"He's brought a lot of energy and a lot of passion to the job," said Connor McDavid, who has a league-best 25 points in 11 postseason games. "We fed off that. The message he preaches is something that I think we all agree with. Something that we all can buy into."
A Game 5 win on Thursday night would send the Oilers to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2006, when Edmonton later lost to Carolina in a seven-game Stanley Cup Final.
Calgary is trying to reach the conference finals for the first time since 2004.
In an offensive-minded series, the Flames could use a strong performance in net from Jacob Markstrom. He ranked third in the league with a 2.22 goals-against average and fourth with a .922 save percentage, but against the high-powered Oilers those numbers are 5.28 and .850.
Flames coach Darryl Sutter said Game 5 is about more than just players like McDavid and Markstrom.
"That's all anyone else had talked about. They've either talked about Jacob Markstrom or Connor McDavid. That's all they've talked about," he said. "In the end, that's not what the difference in games is. We'll have to improve some things."
The Flames twice suffered four-game losing streaks during the regular season, the last in January. Another will end their season.
The Canadian Press contributed to this report.
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at https://twitter.com/aaronbeardap
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports
Updated May 25, 2022