The New York Rangers took power over the Pittsburgh Penguins when rookie Kevin Hayes pushed his team ahead, 3-1 in the series.
FIRST PERIOD: This was one of the, if not the, worst periods for the New York Rangers in their race to the Stanley Cup so far. With a sense of urgency, the Pittsburgh Penguins broke open the scoring for the first time in this series at just 2:39. Pens’ Ben Lovejoy ripped a shot through a sea of bodies in front of the Rangers net and Patric Hornqvist (2) redirected the puck in for the early goal.
It set up the mood for the rest of the period as the Rangers lacked in speed, had sloppy passes and just had overall poor control of the puck. At the same time, the Penguins were absolutely dominating, even on the 5-on-4.
Seconds after taking the lead, the Penguins were on their first inevitable penalty kill at 2:39 when Steve Downie was called for interference. The Rangers power play looked worse than ever before as the Pens had at least a couple shorthand chances and the Blueshirts iced the puck, wasting valuable time on the man advantage.
The Rangers went on another power play at 11:37 when Blake Comeau was sent to the box for hooking, yet the Pens killed off that penalty all the same.
The Pens had a couple power plays of their own, one after a tripping call on Derek Stepan and another after a roughing call on Dominic Moore, but were unable to convert on both: At least we know the Rangers PK still works.
But back to the penalty on Moore for a second. In an award-winning bit of acting, Maxim Lapierre sells a hit to the face after coming into contact with Moore at the boards. He winced and held his hand to his face, but in the replay Moore clearly never touched his face. And like a little girl with a bedazzler, Lapierre got away with extensive embellishment.
The Rangers left the ice with only a couple shots on goal, opposed to the Pens’ eight SOG in a downright horrible first period for the Rangers. Marc Staal later said in the post game interview that Alain Vigneault shook them awake during intermission. And apparently it worked!
New York Rangers
SECOND PERIOD: The Penguins were itching for another penalty when at just 1:35 in, Ian Cole was sent to the sin bin for boarding against Martin St. Louis. The Rangers power play looked quite powerless again, nothing really new happening there.
The Penguins then had a go on the power play after Moore was called for tripping. Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist made a big save on Sidney Crosby and the puck was cleared for another successful PK. There would be no penalties given after that, amazingly, but plenty of chances for either team to gain the lead.
But soon enough, the Rangers would shift into a higher gear. Kevin Hayes had a huge chance in front of net, but his shot just missed wide. Later, J.T. Miller headed up the boards with the puck and passed on the backhand to Chris Kreider who just missed the net as well.
Lapierre was then up to no good again, challenging Dan Girardi to drop his gloves, but Girardi didn’t buy into it.
Then at 17:15, Rick Nash propelled the puck towards Fleury, Ryan McDonagh keeping in the rebound and Derick Brassard refused to quit on the play until the puck squeezed past the post for his third goal in the series. And with that, the Rangers were on the board, the score tied, 1-1.
New York crushed the Penguins, 13-8, in shots on goal that period.
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THIRD PERIOD: The general mood carried over from the second period as Miller and Hayes had big chances. But the Penguins would refuse to roll over as Downie answered with a great try of his own. Halfway through, pushing and shoving between Comeau and Brass ensued, yet led to no penalties. In fact, zero penalties were handed out in these twenty minutes, thank goodness gracious.
The puck was ping-ponged back and forth between the Rangers zone, then the Pens’, then back to the Rangers’ until play was slowed down with a battle against the boards. Downie’s helmet popped loose but the refs allowed the clock to run.
Lundqvist slid to the left for a great pad save, yet left the net wide open. Somehow the puck bounced into the crease right in front of a Pens player, but Girardi was there like an angel sent from Rangers heaven as he batted the puck away just in time.
Pittsburgh outshot the Rangers by only one SOG, 7-6, that period.
OVERTIME: Things looked good for New York right off the bat. We saw great defensive plays by Girardi to keep the Pens from scoring. Yet as a result, Girardi blocked a shot with the side of his right leg, no doubt putting a dent in the iron, and he slowly made his way to the bench. He seemed to be able to recollect himself on the bench.
Back on the ice, St. Louis chipped the puck to the front of the net. Hagelin kept play alive around the crease and who else but rookie KEVIN HAYES shoveled it past Fleury’s glove and the goal line for the overtime winner at 3:14!!!
Rangers won in gorgeous fashion, piling on top of Hayes as Lapierre was left lying down in defeat in the Penguins goal.
STARS OF THE GAME
1- Kevin Hayes, one goal, three hits
2- Henrik Lundqvist, 23 saves, .957SV%
3- Patric Hornqvist, one goal, three hits