The Penguins weathered the storm that the Rangers threw at them early and then endured a triple overtime game and the loss of their goalie in the middle of 2OT of Game 1 of their opening round playoff series. For a jumping off point of the playoffs, it only took one game for a roller coaster of highs and lows.
It ended on a high, when Evgeni Malkin tipped a John Marino shot to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 series lead. But it took a long, long time to get to that point.
The Rangers scored first on the power play at 9:19 of the first period. Adam Fox worked out to the right and then floated a shot in to the left past Casey DeSmith.
Ryan Lindgren would get involved with a launching hit to the head of Rickard Rakell. Rakell was down and out, trying to get off the ice and crumpling back down. Since this is the NHL, a five-minute major was reduced to a minor penalty after review.
Early in the second, DeSmith didn’t help his cause when he caught and held a puck in his glove but dropped it back into play. That proved to be costly, as the Rangers jumped back on the Pens and they were unable to survive and Andrew Copp scored to extend the lead to 2-0.
The band is back together. pic.twitter.com/CM63uyQ7hj— x - New York Rangers (@NYRangers) May 4, 2022
After this, the Pens’ top players would show some fire. After Igor Shesterkin robbed Kris Letang on a great save on a 2-on-1, Pittsburgh stuck at it. A pair of long passes by Bryan Rust and Sidney Crosby had NYR chasing the play and made it easy for Jake Guentzel to tap into the net from right in front and get Pittsburgh on the board.
Step up in the playoffs? That's what Jake Guentzel does.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 4, 2022
Guentzel has turned in some of his best performances in the playoffs, recording 49 points (27G-22A) in 52 games. pic.twitter.com/e7GalMGBbw
The Pittsburgh top line tied the game with another similar play. Bryan Rust made a great long pass up for Crosby, who froze the defender in the zone as Guentzel snuck behind Lindgren. Crosby’s pass set Guentzel in alone and the Pens sniper finished the deal. 2-2 game.
Since making his NHL playoff debut in 2017, Guentzel’s 28 playoff goals are fourth in the league. pic.twitter.com/2CwQY0Ukoq— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 4, 2022
The see-saw emotional experience known as the Penguins power play came into play, giving up a goal and then getting it back.
First, the bad when Mika Zibanejad skated the puck down the ice and Kris Letang did little to throw him off his plan. Guentzel couldn’t keep up with the streaking Chris Kreider and Zibanejad’s pass was a beaut. With so much speed, it was easy for Kreider to deke backhand and tuck it in past the left-out-to-dry DeSmith as the Rangers re-took the lead at 3-2.
This would be a short-lived lead, however, with Pittsburgh converting on a power play and Evgeni Malkin making a pass right through the crease that was a simple tap-in for Bryan Rust to record his third point of the evening and tie the game back at 3.
RUST NEVER SLEEPS.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 4, 2022
(and neither do the Penguins' stars) pic.twitter.com/rY4Q6qkzCo
With 3:10 left, a critical point of the game happens. Brian Dumoulin turns over the puck at mid-ice and Kaapo Kakko drives to the net. Kakko and Dumoulin go into DeSmith, and everyone slides out of the crease. Kakko keeps with the play and is able to pass it out for Filip Chytil to tap the puck into the vacated net.
The Pens use a challenge. Have to do it at this point, and the goal gets reversed. Kakko was being defended by Dumoulin, but clearly did drive into the blue paint of his own volition and it did hinder the goalie’s ability to play the position. Probably a call that could have gone either way, but the Pens get one in their direction after the Lindgren on Rakell hit was downgraded from a major.
That decision helped spin the game to overtime.
New York carried most of the first overtime, with Fox especially being noticeable activating from his defensive position and generating a lot of scoring chances from close to the net. Guentzel nearly recorded a hat trick off a Crosby induced Ranger turnover, but the shot hit the post.
Halfway through the second OT, DeSmith had to leave the game. Possible cramping situation? Organizational third string Louis Domingue is thrust into action 4.5 periods into a playoff game, can’t go in much colder and in high stakes but Domingue stops 14 shots in the second OT. Rust gets the best scoring chance of the period from in front, but his shot kisses the cross-bar and stays out.
The game continues with a third overtime. 5:58 in, Malkin ends the game suddenly. John Marino shoots from the point and Geno gets a great deflection on the puck that flutters into the net to mercifully end Game 1 as a gutty Pittsburgh win.
- The Rangers came out buzzing to start the game and were very fired up and the Pens had to weather the storm early on. they were doing the Islanders thing to throw a bunch of board-rattling checks and had the Pens on their heels and the energy going up.
- The more damaging physical play was on the rush. The big defenders like Lindgren and Patrik Nemeth had the elbows going up.
- The loss of Rakell to one such hit is going to really leave a mark for the Pens moving forward. It remains to be seen how long Rakell will be absent but it certainly did not look good. That’s a key loss.
- For building blocks, the second period was incredibly good for Pittsburgh. After Copp scored, they took over and dominated in shots and the big guns were all firing shots on goal. Shesterkin wasn’t giving much away and is definitely going to make the Pens earn just about every goal they score.
- A lot of poise and character shown by the Pens in the second to bounceback. Luckily, they didn’t freak out or over-react, just buckled down and got down to it.
- The Rangers PK is officially a big problem for the Pens. They scored shorthanded on Pittsburgh in the regular season too. With players like Zibanejad and Kreider killing penalties (not to mention also Fox and Copp as regular PK’ers), they are very big threats and capable of catching the Pens without the puck. Puck management is already a premium in such situations, but become even more critical, because mistakes will be costly.
- How ‘bout that Bryan Rust, huh? Three points in his last 15 regular season games, answered with three points tonight. He’s definitely got that intangible “it” factor to raise his game at the right times. You can’t define “it”, but you know when you see it. You saw it tonight.
- In fact, the whole top line of the Pens is turning into a huge issue for the Rangers. They tried multiple lines and defense pairs to check them. None were very effective. Had to be pretty cathartic for Guentzel (who only scored a single goal in each of the last three playoff series) to pot two tonight. It wasn’t for a lack of chances, but getting that finish and the confidence built up is much better than the alternative.
- Danton Heinen hit two posts in the third. That on the other hand, will be tough.
- Very encouraging game for Casey DeSmith, especially stepping back and looking in totality. He was very sharp early, when the skaters started slow. Stopping 14/15 in the first period (and all at even strength) was vitally important to keep his team in the game and give them a chance. He made the stops he should have made. The challenge will be how physically he will hold up physically to the rigors of playoff games moving forward. On this night he was of solid caliber until he had to leave.
- Lindgren, the aggressor on the Rakell hit, was injured himself late in the second OT and didn’t return for 3OT. Shame! The Rangers have Justin Braun as depth who might be needed if Lindgren can’t answer the bell for next game.
- Easy guess: practice is cancelled tomorrow.
- Domingue has etched his name in a small piece of franchise lore for this. He had to come into a game ice cold, 82 minutes into it. In OT with no room for error. Domingue turned away all 17 shots he saw. What a performance.
Boy, what can you say about that one? What a marathon. And it’s only the beginning. Game 2 is back on Thursday.