Hurricanes beat Rangers in Game 1, but don’t blame Lundqvist

The Rangers and Hurricanes made Game 1 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers (and the first of the NHL Return to Play) a passionate, violent, and sloppy affair. Ultimately, the Hurricanes took care of business 3-2 in Game 1, taking a 1-0 series lead against the Rangers.

Hurricanes, Rangers get Game 1 off to wild, violent start

Heading into the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, people wondered if teams like the Rangers and Hurricanes would need time to find that playoff-level passion. Nope.

Brady Skjei‘s massive hit on Jesper Fast set the tone for a physical, nasty first period.

While Jaccob Slavin scored the first goal of the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers on the Hurricanes’ first shot, Henrik Lundqvist kept the Rangers in Game 1. With Igor Shesterkin deemed “unfit to play,” the Rangers went from a controversy to an obvious choice in Lundqvist. Despite the loss, Lundqvist often looked like “King Henrik” in Game 1.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Really, it’s fair to wonder how lopsided Game 1 could have been if Lundqvist wasn’t so sharp. Even if you blame Lundqvist for a goal or more — already dubious — he made plenty of tough saves to keep the Rangers in shooting distance.

Sloppy Game 1 for both teams; Rangers need more from Panarin and others

If you wanted a sign of rust, look no further than the two teams’ many trips to the penalty box. At times, it felt like even-strength play was the exception rather than the rule for the Hurricanes and Rangers in Game 1.

Through much of Game 1, the Rangers looked sloppy, and the Hurricanes controlled much of the proceedings. Even so, it’s noteworthy that the contest ended up close on the scoreboard.

While Artemi Panarin probably drew a little more heat than he deserved — there’s only so much you can do in a Game 1 like this — the Rangers will probably need some magic from him to succeed more in Game 2 and beyond.

Mika Zibanejad performed well, though. Mika Z carried over his hot streak from 2019-20, scoring the Rangers’ first goal on the PP with a nice tip. Zibanejad also served as a workhorse considering how much time he logged on the PK.

Marc Staal experienced a busy Game 1. Staal got physical with Martin Necas early on. Later in Game 1, the Hurricanes’ third goal went off of Staal, but he redeemed himself with a 3-2 tally. The Rangers probably don’t want Marc Staal to be such a prominent factor at this point in his career, but these are strange times.

As far as Game 2 goes, it’s fair to wonder if the Rangers will go with Lundqvist or Shesterkin. Yet, such a decision wouldn’t be about Lundqvist playing poorly. Instead, the question might be: can Shesterkin bail the Rangers out even more than Lundqvist tried to?

Because, if the Rangers and Hurricanes continue playing this well, New York will need some incredible goaltending — and more from its biggest stars.

Hurricanes – Rangers 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule (start times, TV networks)

(6) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (11) New York Rangers (Hurricanes lead series 1-0)

Monday, Aug. 3: Rangers vs. Hurricanes, 12 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Hurricanes vs. Rangers, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Thursday, Aug. 6: Hurricanes vs. Rangers*
Saturday, Aug. 8: Rangers vs. Hurricanes*

MORE:
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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