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Pens/Rangers Game 2 Recap: NYR pulls away from Pittsburgh to tie series

The Pens hung tough for a while, but couldn’t overcome star efforts from Artemi Panarin, Igor Shesterkin and the Rangers in Game 2

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers - Game Two Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Penguins had to deal with more adversity and missing players in Game 2 against the Rangers. As expected, absent were Rickard Rakell and Casey DeSmith, who were injured in the first game. Brian Dumoulin joined them, despite taking practice yesterday, with a lower body injury that forced him to miss his first ever NHL playoff game. It also wasn’t time for Jason Zucker to return.

With that depleted lineup and on the road against a quality New York team, it felt like an uphill battle from the get-go. That hill got a little steeper when the Rangers opened the scoring 6:10 into the first period. With the whole Pens team entranced by Artemi Panarin, the skilled winger dished the puck over for Andrew Copp to hammer home and open the scoring.

Pittsburgh would show the resilience that has set the tone of the series, and responded just two minutes later. Jake Guentzel drove to the net and followed up with a puck that floated down. Due to the puck coming from mid-air to the ice, it looked like Guentzel might have fanned a little, but that delayed shot worked to his advantage and helped the puck slide on in the net and tie the game at 1-1.

Early in the second period, the problematic Penguin penalty kill bit Pittsburgh again. After almost surviving an entire two minutes to a minor call on John Marino, Adam Fox fired a shot that Ryan Strome deflected in front of the net to put the Rangers back in front at 2-1.

Later in the second the Rangers used a play out of that same playbook to extend the lead to 3-1. This time it was an outside shot from Frank Vatrano, after New York had the Pens pinned in their end for a while. Chris Kreider used his skills to put a tip on this effort which again left Louis Domingue without much of a hope to stop the puck.

Down two, the Pens didn’t go away. Late in the third, captain Sidney Crosby bulled up the ice and surrounded by defenders wouldn’t be denied. Bryan Rust followed up Crosby’s efforts with a shot and that rebound was put to the back of the net by the Pens’ leader to give them some hope and close the deficit to 3-2 after 40 minutes.

After a Pittsburgh push to open the third period, it would be Panarin who was next to score. He skated around Kris Letang and towards behind the net and flipped the

Just 1:47 later, the Rangers broke the game open. Vatrano skated around Mike Matheson and then ripped a shot far-side on Domingue to up the score to 5-2.

The Pens would press on, pulling Domingue with about five minutes left and somehow not surrendering a goal against.

Igor Shesterkin leaned his left leg out into Jeff Carter, for unknown reasons, attempts a triple salchow on the way down and laid on the ice like he was dead, apparently not getting enough attention or drama. Then 10 seconds later he was OK.

Time runs out after this mess and the series is even at 1-1 heading back to Pittsburgh on Saturday night.

Some thoughts

  • Can’t blame Domingue for the result tonight. By the third period the proverbial Cinderella stage coach turned into a pumpkin, but Domingue gave the Pensa chance for about 45 minutes and they were still behind on the scoreboard at that point anyways. Two of the goals he gave up were deflected right in front. His defense was pinned in their own end and giving up more chances then they would have liked. Goalie play was not an issue for Pittsburgh, really.
  • But, that said, it does seem like the USS Penguin is taking on a lot of water right now. The stars are shining (Crosby and Guentzel, especially). But Dumoulin has been a problem for a while and can’t play now, that’s a very bad development if he’s too banged up to go. Two top-six forwards are out. And, oh yeah, the top two goalies on the team are hurt. This is not a very promising long-term outlook.
  • At one point, with Marino in the penalty box and Dumoulin out, the Pens had Mark Friedman and Mike Matheson (and Domingue) killing a penalty. There’s going to be a breaking point somewhere, and the Pens have rapidly approached (and possibly gotten past) that.
  • But, hey, at the same time, when you start on the road for a playoff series, the primary goal is to bring the series back home 1-1. Mission accomplished, from that bigger picture.
  • The score looks lopsided, but the Pens definitely had their chances to be in it. A Guentzel stretch pass sprung Rust on a breakaway. Evgeni Malkin was stopped from point blank range early in the third, and then Crosby couldn’t push a puck in from the blue paint moments later. The right guys were in the right spots.
  • The Rangers didn’t earn a shot on goal in the third period until six+ minutes in. That push seemed like it was going to be the Pens’ last best chance to tie the game and it just didn’t come. Then Panarin scored and Vatrano scored and that was all she wrote.
  • That stretch early in the third was a very crucial moment and showed the difference in class. Shesterkin was tremendous and the Pens just couldn’t score on him. On the other end, Domingue had done all he could do and eventually folded easier in the third.
  • The one piece of good news for the Pens, however, is the stars are playing great. Tonight was Panarin’s night ultimately, but Crosby and Guentzel were right there with him. Pittsburgh is always going to have a fighting chance and be right in the game down the line when Sid and Jake are scoring points like they have been in this series so far.

The Pens head back to Pittsburgh, the series is 1-1, but compared to they were from entering New York a few days ago, it’s debatable if they’re in a position to capitalize on it. But, this time of year, the only way out is through. And the only way through is to get ready and go right back at it again on Saturday night.