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Rangers aim for sweep of Hurricanes in 2nd round of NHL playoffs

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The New York Rangers have carried the form that made them the NHL’s best regular-season team straight into the postseason. And that has them within a win of becoming the first team into the conference finals.

The Rangers visit the Carolina Hurricanes in Saturday night’s Game 4, with the Presidents’ Trophy winner on the verge of sweeping past the team that finished third in the NHL standings. They’re also the first team in 16 years to start a postseason at 7-0 after Thursday’s 3-2 overtime win at Carolina.

“You don’t really even think about it, though,” Rangers forward Jack Roslovic said. “You’re just rolling, you’re playing good hockey. Everybody’s clicking at the right time, the goalies are playing well, the systems seem to be working, the matchups seem to be working. So you just keep on trying to do a lot of the same.”

New York opened the playoffs with a sweep of Washington in Round 1. Another sweep would make them the first team to open the playoffs with eight straight wins since the Edmonton Oilers won nine in a row in 1985 on the way to winning the Stanley Cup, according to Sportradar.

The last team to hit 7-0 was Pittsburgh in 2008 before falling to Detroit in the Cup final. New York also did it in 1994 on the way to their most recent Cup win. Now they’ll try to close out the Hurricanes on their home ice in front of a typically boisterous crowd.

“We know what we’re getting into, we have to be ready for it and we have to make sure that we play our game inside of that,” New York coach Peter Laviolette said.

For Carolina, the Hurricanes are facing a grim and familiar reality, especially after acquiring forward Jake Guentzel at the trade deadline in a signal that the team viewed this year as its best shot to go all-in as a multi-year Cup contender under Rod Brind’Amour.

In what has gone from quirk to frustrating pattern, Carolina has seen its last eight playoff losses come by one-goal margins — with five in overtime — going back to last year’s sweep at the hands of Florida in the Eastern Conference Final.

Brind’Amour has talked about liking what the team is doing in its 5-on-5 play. But this is a series being won by the Rangers on special teams, and Carolina’s power play that ranked second in the regular season has come apart at the worst possible moment. Carolina has gone 0 for 5 in all three games with the man advantage, while New York got a game-changing shorthanded goal from Chris Kreider in Game 3 to further those frustrations.

Throw in the fact that Carolina gave up four power-play goals in Games 1 and 2, and the Rangers have outscored the Hurricanes 5-0 on special teams in a series decided by a combined margin of three goals.

“Everyone knows what’s going on, what’s the situation we’re in,” forward Seth Jarvis said. “Like I said before, it’s not going to help anyone being negative and being down.”

STARS at AVALANCHE, Tied 1-1, 10 p.m. ET (TNT)

Valeri Nichushkin keeps finding the net this postseason for the Avalanche, even when not getting his stick on the puck. He now has a chance to break a 32-year-old NHL record when their second-round Western Conference series switches to Colorado for Game 3.

With a goal in all seven games so far, the latest on a puck that ricocheted off his right leg in Game 2 at Dallas, Nichushkin matched Pat LaFontaine’s mark for longest goal streak to open a postseason (for Buffalo in 1992). That also equaled the Avs’ franchise record for overall playoff streak with Claude Lemieux and Joe Sakic.

While 2013 Stars’ first-round pick Nichushkin is on a record scoring streak, some of the current Dallas players may finally be finding their offensive game.

The only point top-line center Roope Hintz had in the Stars’ first eight playoff games was an empty-net goal. But he had a goal and three assists in their 5-3 win Thursday night that tied the series at a game apiece.

Six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin got his first goal in these playoffs with a short-hander that proved to be the deciding tally in Game 2. Esa Lindell got his first on a late empty-netter with an assist from Hintz, who also had helpers on both of defenseman Miro Heiskanen’s two power-play goals.

“Those guys want to win. They want to be difference makers, they’re used to being difference makers,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “So it’s critical that those guys started to score, and we got scoring from the right guys.”

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AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins in Dallas contributed to this report.

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AP NHL playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

By AARON BEARD
AP Sports Writer

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