Yep. They picked up right where they left off.
Game 3 between the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes ended with tensions high and there was some obvious carryover into Tuesday’s Game 4 at Madison Square Garden that saw the Blue Shirts even the series with a 4-1 victory.
Whistles were few and far in between during a frenetic first half of the opening period as both teams traded chances. The Rangers controlled much of the high-paced action and eventually began winning more puck battles than the Hurricanes.
Then the key turning point of Game 4 occurred.
Jacob Trouba absolutely walloped Max Domi near the penalty boxes with a hard hit at the 11:38 mark.
Steven Lorentz was in the vicinity when the open-ice hit was delivered. Instead of merely taking Trouba’s number, Lorentz immediately came to the defence of his teammate and dropped the mitts with Trouba in a rare playoff scrap.
Trouba unquestionably contacted Domi’s head, just as the Hurricanes' forward's feet were sliding out from beneath him mind you, yet the officials deemed it a clean hit.
The sequence resulted in an instigator call on Lorentz.
Carolina's bench, plus head coach Rod Brind'Amour, were visibly upset when Trouba only received five for fighting.
Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant told the broadcast at the first intermission "it was a great hit" before adding "Domi had his head down a little bit."
Domi, of course, was involved in the rough stuff at the end of that heated Game 3 over the weekend.
The instigator call certainly seemed to affect the Hurricanes on the penalty kill and the Rangers capitalized with Lorentz in his team’s locker room as part of the 2-5-10 he was assessed.
Carolina was relatively sloppy while a man down and a turnover in their own end led to a missed opportunity to clear the zone. That led to Adam Fox patiently making a cross-ice saucer pass to Andrew Copp who neatly slide the puck to Frank Vatrano and the winger beat Antti Raanta low glove to open the scoring.
Brind'Amour, while wanting his players to be more disciplined, was fairly subdued in his post-game comments. He did mention he thought Trouba should've been given a cross-checking minor for getting his stick up on Lorentz prior to the brief punch-up.
"We’re not out there to catch guys (with their heads down) or play stupid or anything like that," Copp said of Trouba’s hit after the game. "We’re just trying to finish our checks when we’re there and play physical when we can and make smart decisions. At the end of the day, them taking the two minutes changed the course of the game. … It’s not headhunting at all. It’s a good hit and their response warranted a penalty."
Copp added his second assist of the period moments later when Fox, who leapfrogged Cale Makar for the active post-season lead in points among blueliners, tipped in his fourth of the playoffs on a Ryan Lindgren shot.
Lindgren, who has been excellent for the Rangers since returning to the lineup, was named the second star thanks to his two-assist night. Copp and Vatrano, both acquired in March trades, were named first and third stars of the game, respectively.
While there’s plenty of blame to go around on the Carolina side of the equation, Raanta’s performance is not why the series is even as it shifts back to PNC Arena.
Raanta did allow four goals on 28 shots, sure, however he also made a handful of highlight-reel saves to keep his team in it.
Alexis Lafreniere and Artemi Panarin were both separately stopped by Raanta on breakaway backhand deke attempts and he flashed the leather on Chris Kreider, yet his best of the night was against Mika Zibanejad.
The bigger concern for Carolina continued to be the lacklustre power play. It was only 5-for-43 in the playoffs prior to Game 4 where the issues persisted.
Carolina didn't have trouble entering the zone when a man up. It’s just they couldn't do much beyond moving the puck around the perimeter once the zone was established.
Their first man advantage of Game 4 occurred midway through the second period although the best scoring chance and only shot on goal during that PP was generated by the Rangers.
Brind'Amour's group couldn’t get anything going with Lafreniere in the box serving a goalie interference minor early in the final frame either and they finished the night 0-for-2.
The Hurricanes were down by three goals heading into the third period and to say putting three behind Ilya Shesterkin in a single period is a tall task would be an understatement.
The soon-to-be Vezina Trophy winner had his shutout bid ended by Teuvo Teravainen in the third but that's all Carolina could muster.
Brind'Amour didn’t even bother pulling his goalie in the final few minutes with the score 4-1.
There was some more pushing and shoving at the final horn with Ryan Reeves giving Domi the business – which was likely more fallout from the Game 3 rough stuff – but nothing escalated further.
The Hurricanes are winless on the road this post-season but perfect at home so they’ll appreciate Game 5 is scheduled for Thursday in Raleigh, N.C.
This series is now officially a best-of-three.