Svechnikov dominates as Hurricanes push Rangers to brink of elimination

The Carolina Hurricanes have the potential to be a terrifying team in the Eastern Conference, and the emergence of second-year standout Andrei Svechnikov is one of the biggest reasons why.

His three goal effort on Monday afternoon in the Hurricanes’ 4-1 win over the New York Rangers was the first postseason hat trick in Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers history, and helped power the Hurricanes to a 2-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Qualifying round series.

They will have an opportunity to sweep the Rangers on Tuesday night.

It has been pretty obvious through the first two games that the Hurricanes are the better team — and that was especially true on Monday — as they have to yet to trail at any point in the series. And they are doing all of that without the services of their top defenseman, Dougie Hamilton, who remains out of the lineup.

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But for as great as the Hurricanes have looked overall as a team, Svechnikov became the story on Monday and is quickly becoming one of the biggest stories of the postseason. He is not only one of the league’s most creative and electrifying players, he is also shining on the biggest stage and helping to carry his team’s offense.

He opened the scoring just 4:24 into the first period on Monday when he beat Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist off the rush.

Just one minute into the second period he extended the Hurricanes’ lead when he blasted a one-timer from the top of the right circle right off of an offensive zone face-off.

He completed the hat trick late in the third period when he finished an odd-man rush with linemate Sebastian Aho.

Aho assisted on all three of Svechnikov’s goals on Monday.

There may not have been any fans in the stands to celebrate his performance by showering the ice with hats, but the Hurricanes had Svechnikov covered after the game.

An emerging star

Simply put, Svechnikov is a rising superstar in the league and is going to be a cornerstone piece for the Hurricanes in the coming seasons. After scoring 20 goals as an 18-year old rookie, he came back this season and was scoring at a 30-goal pace before the season was halted. He did all of that while also demonstrating a level of confidence and creativity that few players dare to show (the lacrosse goals!) and also playing a strong two-way game that has allowed to post dominant possession numbers on the Hurricanes’ top line.

Keep in mind that he only turned 20 years old back in March. As good as he already is right now, his best days are still very much ahead of him.

For years the Hurricanes were always viewed as a sleeper team in the league because they always seemed to do everything right in terms of how they played. They were good defensively, they could dominate possession, every analytic pointed to a team that had the potential to be something special. The two things they always lacked were goaltending and top-line finishers that could convert some of that territorial dominance into goals. The draft of Svechnikov was a big step in fixing the latter problem, and when combined with Aho and Teuvo Teravainen the Hurricanes have a trio of impact forwards that are just now entering the prime of their careers.

(6) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (11) New York Rangers (Hurricanes lead series 2-0)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Hurricanes 3, Rangers 2 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Hurricanes 4, Rangers 1
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Hurricanes vs. Rangers, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Thursday, Aug. 6: Hurricanes vs. Rangers*
Saturday, Aug. 8: Rangers vs. Hurricanes*

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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