In seven NHL seasons, Evan Rodrigues had yet to score a playoff goal heading into Saturday.
In fact, because he spent five years of his seven-season NHL career in Buffalo, he had never before played in a postseason before he joined the Penguins in 2021.
Rodrigues broke that drought in spectacular fashion when he scored twice in under five minutes to help Pittsburgh surge out to a 4-1 lead in the first period of Game 3.
Rodrigues is not the only player who made his first postseason impact on the Penguins Saturday:
- Brock McGinn has contributed to a few Carolina Hurricanes playoff runs (he scored twice and provided four assists in 15 playoff games in 2019, then scored three goals when the Hurricanes went to Round 2 in 2020). This is McGinn’s first playoff run with the Pens. On Saturday, he did what the team was hoping he’d do when they picked him on on 2021 free agency: providing depth scoring. His goal opened scoring fewer than two minutes into Game 3.
- Brian Boyle wasn’t even sure if he would be playing in the NHL this season when he signed a professional tryout (PTO) contract with Pittsburgh in September. He has not registered an assist in the postseason since 2019 in Nashville— but he got himself on the scoreboard once again on Saturday with an assist to set up Evan Rodrigues’ third goal of the night.
- Danton Heinen had scored three goals in 33 playoffs games with the Bruins. This is his first postseason with the Penguins. His shot on net during the third period wasn’t particularly fancy— but it was still a shot on net, and that was what it took to get a Penguins go-ahead goal past Rangers backup goaltender Alexandar Georgiev.
- BONUS: Louis Domingue recorded the secondary assist on Evan Rodrigues’ first goal. It was the goaltender’s first NHL point. Now THAT’s depth scoring.
The Penguins’ blown lead in Game 3 demonstrated, quite emphatically, the issues involved in leaning on a third-string goaltender.
As they’ve demonstrated, the Penguins’ defensive structure is not strong enough to protect their third-string goaltender from being exposed. For them to have a chance in this series, they’re going to need to score, and they’re going to need to score a lot.
This is going to require points from the bottom six. Seeing Rodrigues, McGinn, Boyle and Heinen on the scoreboard in Game 3 is an encouraging sign they can get it.
Now, it’s time for Evgeni Malkin to join in on the fun...