RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Hurricanes have the home-ice advantage with the flawless record when playing in front of their rowdy home crowd. The New York Rangers have the resilience that’s been proven with a perfect mark in elimination games.
They’re both leaning on those experiences in another Game 7 on Monday night, the second winner-take-all matchup for each in these Stanley Cup playoffs. The winner goes to the Eastern Conference finals for a matchup with two-time reigning Cup champion Tampa Bay.
The Hurricanes held off the Rangers for the Metropolitan Division title in a race that came down to the final week of the regular season. That, along with posting the NHL’s third-best record, gave them a second round of home-ice advantage at PNC Arena — where they have gone 7-0 in the longest streak by any team to start a postseason since 2014.
“I think there’s confidence just in general,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said Sunday. “We know when we play our game, we’re going to have a good chance. You can draw on whatever if you want. … You’ve got another day, so it’s a good opportunity.”
The home-ice advantage proved vital in surviving a first-round series against a Boston Bruins team that had twice knocked the Canes out of the playoffs in the past three seasons, with Carolina winning a home Game 7 after losing all three road games.
The Hurricanes are right back in that position — holding serve at home but losing all three road games against the Rangers. Yet forward Vincent Trocheck and defenseman Tony DeAngelo both shrugged off whether having been in the situation before has any value.
“I think we’re dwelling on this home and away thing a little bit too much,” Trocheck said. “I mean, it’s a hockey game. When you get out on the ice, you’re not really focused on whether you’re going to go back to your own bed after the game or if you’re going to go to a hotel.”
Carolina is trying to improve to 7-0 in Game 7s since the former Hartford Whalers relocated to North Carolina in 1997. That includes the 2006 Stanley Cup finals against Edmonton with Brind’Amour as captain.
The Rangers aren’t fazed by the challenge, even while they’ve managed just one win in six road games during the playoffs. New York clawed back from a 3-1 first-round series deficit against Pittsburgh, including a Game 6 road win, and advanced with a Game 7 home win.
After winning three straight elimination games in that series, the Rangers have rallied from an 0-2 deficit in this one and forced Game 7 with a 5-2 win at Madison Square Garden — their fourth straight in an elimination game during this postseason.
“We found a way to win in Pittsburgh,” Rangers center Filip Chytil said after Saturday’s win. “It’s a Game 7 now. We have to find a way to win the game and just play how we play at home.”
The Rangers are playing in their first road Game 7 since beating Pittsburgh in the second round of the 2014 playoffs, and they’re trying to reach the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2015.
The Hurricanes are trying to return to the Eastern finals for the second time in four seasons. They made an unexpected run there in 2019 in Brind’Amour’s first season as coach, ending a nine-year playoff drought.
“You do need to enjoy these moments because this is pretty cool,” said Brind’Amour, who said he gets more nervous as a coach than his playing days. “It’s pretty special to have an opportunity like this.”
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at https://twitter.com/aaronbeardap
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports