Flexible guards are still here.
They halted Wednesday night’s elimination in Game 5 of the first-round playoff series with a 5-3 victory over the Penguins – who were without superstar Sidney Crosby from the end of the second half onwards – in front of a sold-out crowd. 18,006 in Madison Square Garden.
The Blueshirts, who stopped appearing entirely in Game 4 in Pittsburgh, have recovered from heavy losses and poor periods throughout the season. However, until Game 5, they haven’t played in the series though and we’ve never really gotten out of the game that’s fueled them for the better part of the past seven months.
With not only the first round of the game out, but also with the legitimacy of their regular season success at stake, the Rangers brought the series back to Pittsburgh. Match 6 was scheduled for Friday night at the PPG Paints Arena, with the Rangers conceding 14 goals in games 3 and 4.
“We weren’t happy with what happened in Pittsburgh,” said Philip Shettle, who scored the game-winning goal less than three minutes into the third half. “It was just, both games, something [that] We didn’t do a full season. We just haven’t played all season [the] The way we played, just [to] You lose games like this in Pittsburgh.
“So we just had a good meeting, a good practice yesterday and today we thought we’d win and go back to Pittsburgh.”
Chytil said before the game that he couldn’t speak for his teammates, but he personally was eager to get on the ice. It was clear how much the Rangers’ disappointing performance in Pittsburgh affected the Czech winger – and the rest of the Rangers squad.
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After the Penguins led 2-0, the juniors led the way for Rangers, as they have for much of this series. Chytil, Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko scored twice.
Lavrinier tied the score 2-2 at 16:41 of the second half with a superb feed from Kakko behind the nets of Pittsburgh. The 2020 first overall pick raised his hands to the park crowd as he celebrated his second goal of the series.
“We’re having fun,” Lavrinier said. “But you have to work hard every shift, every shift counts. That’s what makes it so fun.”
Rangers regained some grit in their back end with Ryan Lindgren returning to the squad after missing the last three matches due to an undisclosed lower body injury. Familiar with himself, Lindgren found himself amid a handful of scraps, capping the scoring with an empty net with 16 seconds left.
Igor Shesterkin made the park crowd chant his name before the national anthem was played. The fans in attendance surely knew just how much their star needed some encouragement after being pulled in the previous two matches. Shesterkin saved 29 times, including 15 in the third game.
The zoo crowd seemed to be losing hope after Chris Letang once fed Evgeny Malkin at 7:58 of the second half giving the Penguins a 2-0 lead. Pittsburgh was blocking every lane, blocking shot after shot and pushing the Rangers into the ocean in all three areas.
But when Crosby left for the locker room with 6:32 left in the middle frame, after absorbing a powerful blow from Jacob Tropa, things suddenly opened up for the Rangers, who scored three goals – from Lavrinière, Adam Fox and Tropa – in the 2:42 range.
coincidence? Mostly not.
Top winger Jake Goetzel kept the Penguins competitive, opening the scoring in the first half and then leveling the score 3-3 in the last minute of the second. However, the Rangers put on the kind of fight that softened the blow they had taken in the previous two games in Pittsburgh.
Head coach Gerard Gallant obviously couldn’t say for sure if his team would win this game and avoid disqualification, but he knew the effort would be there – and it was.
“They were competitors like hell tonight and that’s what we wanted from them,” Gallant said. “Be competitive, try to win a lot of one-on-one fights, and we played hard. We lost 2-0, but we were still playing hard all the time and we were falling.”