The series between the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins will continue for a few more days. Rangers shrugged off a weak first half on Wednesday night to win 5-3 at Madison Square Garden.
Posted at 10:03 p.m
In addition to the loss, the Penguins lost the services of their captain, Sidney Crosby, who left the game in the second half. Crosby was accidentally hit in the head.
That didn’t bode well for the Rangers. Really not! With a 3-1 deficit in their series and a 2-0 deficit in the game, they seemed to be running out of answers. By the middle of the second period, they looked anything but like a team capable of climbing the slope.
The crowd seemed to believe it less and less and had lost their beautiful enthusiasm of the first twenty. The disc jockey did what he could to wake fans up to hits from Big Apple artists like the Ramones and Billy Joel, but it was unusually quiet in the old garden.
Then, without warning, Rangers struck three times in less than three minutes. Pip, poof, poof. Adam Fox, Alexis Lafrenière and Jacob Trouba beat goalkeeper Louis Domingue to give Rangers a 3-2 lead.
Jake Guentzel equalized 13 seconds after Trouba’s goal, but the damage was done. Rangers had just taken their hikes and “swing” and it was confirmed in the third period.
Filip Chytil restored the Rangers’ lead on the power play early in the third game, and the New Yorkers dominated the game in the first 15 minutes of the 20th game. The guests threatened in the closing minutes, but Igor Shesterkin finally had a good time and closed the door.
Shesterkin had finished the last two games sitting at the end of the bench. On the first goal of Game 5, he was hit from behind the goal by Guentzel, who deflected the puck by throwing it at the Russian goalie. Not enough to restore Shesterkin’s confidence.
But the Rangers goalkeeper can count on the support of his coach Gerard Gallant and the club’s supporters. Gallant blamed his skaters after being beaten in Game 4 in Pittsburgh, calling their game too soft. The crowd chanted “Igor” several times Wednesday night as if to reassure Shesterkin, whose playing was very unsteady.
Lafrenière: only a matter of time
The best Rangers player in his win? Alexis Lafreniere.
The Rangers staff needn’t worry, Lafreniere will be the player we hoped for when he was the very first draft pick two years ago. His stats will improve as he gets more playing time, especially on the power play, but right now his game is already very solid for a 20-year-old. The beautiful goal he scored from a one-timer on Wednesday night should give him a small dose of confidence.
The game of Kaapo Kakko, who was picked as second hope in 2019, is a little more concerning even if he is only 21 years old. In the middle of the second period, the author of these lines did not even know if Kakko was in uniform…
But let’s face it, apart from Lafrenière and Chris Kreider, every Rangers forward seemed ready for the holidays in the first half of the game. Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad can certainly do better.
At the Penguins’ side, Guentzel once again proved that he is one of the best players in the NHL going into the playoffs. He scored twice and netted in his seventh straight playoff game.
Concussion for Crosby?
Crosby collided with defenseman Jacob Trouba in the second half, possibly suffering a concussion. In the moments after the clash, he looked visibly uncomfortable on the Penguins’ bench.
After continuing to play for a few minutes, Crosby returned to the dressing room in the second period and never returned. Given Crosby’s background, which has already suffered multiple concussions, it was the only possible decision.
Crosby’s absence in the second half was certainly a factor in the Penguins’ defeat. Without their big point guard to calm the game or score the “big” goal, they never managed to contain and stop the Rangers’ advance.
In a streak that began with a six-period game and continues Friday night in Pittsburgh, the Rangers, who form a younger team than the Penguins, should normally have the advantage. Even more so if Crosby has to be absent, which unfortunately seems very likely at the moment.