Kuznetsov game 5 MONDAY bug

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Evgeny Kuznetsov made a promise Sunday.

“Yeah, we are kind of against the wall right now, but all I want to say is it’s just going to be a dogfight tomorrow,” the Carolina Hurricanes forward said. “There is one bowl of food, and two dogs [are] going to compete [with] each other.”

Kuznetsov said the Hurricanes are not done after winning Game 4 against the New York Rangers, a 4-3 victory at PNC Arena on Saturday that staved off elimination in the best-of-7 series. Yes, Carolina still trails 3-1, but each game has been decided by one goal, one in double overtime and another in overtime.

It’s enough for Kuznetsov to believe the Hurricanes have the skill -- and the will -- to repeat the winning formula on the road in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden on Monday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, SN, TVAS, CBC).

And, if Carolina wins to force a Game 6 back at PNC Arena on Thursday? Well, watch out, Kuznetsov says.

“They know they don’t want to come back here,” he said. “They know it is going to be Hell here. They want to finish over there and what we are trying to do is just put the pressure on them a little bit and play our game.”

The Hurricanes played their game Saturday. They got scoring throughout the lineup, although their top line drove the bus. They played disciplined, allowing just one power play. They were committed in the defensive zone and also scored on the man-advantage, the game-winner from defenseman Brady Skjei with 3:11 left in the third period. It was Carolina’s first power-play goal in 17 tries in this series.

However, Kuznetsov wasn’t overly interested in how his team attacked Game 4. He was more interested in its mindset.

Kuznetsov, who won a championship with the Washington Capitals in 2018, knows will is more important than skill at this time of year. He had 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists) that postseason, which culminated with a Stanley Cup win against the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Hurricanes are ready to bring the fight in Game 5, he says.

“There’s not a lot of tactics or skill plays,” he said. “It’s just about compete and the dogfight. That’s all I can say.”

Kuznetsov, who was acquired from the Capitals prior to the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline on March 8 to bring depth scoring and leadership, has led by example in that department throughout this postseason.

In the first round against the New York Islanders, he scored the series-opening goal and added an assist in a 3-1 victory. Afterward, he said the effort from the Hurricanes was unacceptable.

On Saturday, two games after being a healthy scratch, Kuznetsov scored the opening goal at 1:51 of the first. After he scored, he peeled away and started his trademark flying-bird celebration, but abandoned it as he reached the penalty box. Instead, he smacked his stick against the glass, in the vicinity of two Rangers fans seated in the front row.

“It wasn’t hard [to notice them],” Kuznetsov said. “There was a lot of them -- and they were loud.”

There will naturally be more Rangers fans Monday and they will be louder, especially with the opportunity for their team to advance to the Eastern Conference Final.

No matter.

Though the Hurricanes know they are nowhere near out of the woods, they have a path to follow.

“The narrative or the message that we are giving is probably not going to change much; it’s the next game is the biggest game and we are fighting for our lives,” said Carolina forward Jordan Martinook, who drew the penalty that set up the power-play goal by Skjei. “it’s just about that next game and trying to do anything you can to win that game and to bring it back here.”

It's unclear who will start in goal for the Hurricanes on Monday.

It was Frederik Andersen in Game 4; he made 22 saves, but lost his post badly on the third-period goal by New York forward Alexis Lafrenière that tied it 3-3 at 2:04.

Pyotr Kochetkov started Game 3 and made 22 saves in a 3-2 overtime loss. He was inserted into the lineup to give Andersen a rest after he started the first seven games of the postseason.

Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said Sunday he was not ready to announce his starter, but the Hurricanes say they are good either way.

Andersen was the No. 1 before he was sidelined with blood-clotting issues from Nov. 3 to March 7.

In the interim, Kochetkov kept the Hurricanes in contention for the Presidents’ Trophy and the Metropolitan Division title. They lost each, by three points, to the Rangers.

“It really doesn’t matter which guy is in there,” Martinook said. “We have full faith in whichever one is between the pipes. ‘Kootch,’ his Game 3 was pretty incredible. Freddy made some big stops last night, big ones at key moments, and I feel like that’s what you kind of need.

“It doesn’t matter which guy we are going with. We’ll be happy with whoever is playing.”