The New York Rangers, fueled by Alexis Lafrenière, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko, kept their season alive this evening with a 5-3 comeback win at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers looked like dead men walking throughout the first half of this game, but a three-goal second period brought life back into the Garden and on the ice. Igor Shesterkin had quite the rebound in the crease, but at the same time, the Rangers as a whole were much better defensively.
It was a relatively quiet period for the Rangers in the offensive zone, as they were able to get on the forecheck, but it ultimately didn’t lead to many chances. The Penguins continued their strong play through the neutral zone and kept the Rangers off the scoreboard completely throughout the first 20 minutes. Jake Guentzel eventually put Pittsburgh out in front just past the halfway mark as he followed up his own rebound, and got three separate whacks at the puck.
The final attempt by Guentzel came from just below the goal line, and poor puck tracking by Igor Shesterkin led to the opening goal. The puck just barely deflected off of Shesterkin’s left skate and ended up in the back of the net. It was certainly an unfortunate break for the Rangers on home ice, and they trailed heading into the first intermission.
Despite have trouble generating chances off of the rush, the Rangers did an excellent job in the second period of completely taking Pittsburgh out of the game. The Penguins went nearly 14 minutes without a shot on goal while holding onto a 1-0 lead, as the Rangers settled back into their game. Unfortunately for the Rangers, the first shot of the period ended up in the back of the net and all of New York seemed stunned. Kris Letang was able to get into open ice on a quick transition turnover, and buried a great centering feed from Evgeni Malkin.
At this point in the game, the Rangers didn’t have much life on the ice, the crowd was dead silent and it didn’t appear as if it was going to be a merciful ending. Then, the Rangers came storming back. Adam Fox opened the scoring for the Rangers at the 15:11 mark of the second period, and off they went. Exactly a minute and a half after the Rangers got on the board, the Kid Line delivered and sent Madison Square Garden into a frenzy.
Kaapo Kakko made quite a play behind the Penguins’ net to draw attention to him, and toss an absolute dime of a pass out front to Alexis Lafrenière. Lafrenière didn’t miss the perfectly placed pass from his linemate and brought the Rangers back even after all of the doom and gloom.
As if the Rangers didn’t already prove to everyone that they were back in this game, Jacob Trouba nearly blew the roof of 4 Pennsylvania Plaza. A great side step along the boards by Trouba gave him a wide open lane to the net, and he took full advantage of the space in front of him. He was able to fight off the oncoming backcheck, and shoveled a shot on goal that gave Louis Domingue some trouble. The puck slipped right between the legs of the goaltender and the Rangers were suddenly ahead 3-2 in this game.
However, it wouldn’t be a typical playoff game for the Rangers unless there was chaos immediately following chaos. Just 13 seconds after jumping out in front, Jake Guentzel struck again for the Penguins and tied things back up at 3-3. Right off of the ensuing faceoff, the Penguins came right back down the ice and immediately got on the forecheck down below the goal line. Guentzel somehow got lost in a wave of five different Rangers sitting in the high slot, and Evgeni Malkin found him just as he stepped into a shooting lane. Igor Shesterkin didn’t stand much of a chance after the shot left Guentzel’s stick, and it setup for quite the third period.
Even though they gave up a late tying goal, the Rangers didn’t change their game and were rewarded with an early power play opportunity. The first power play unit had a couple looks but they weren’t able to get anything by Louis Domingue. Then, the Kid Line stepped over the boards and went to work once again. Filip Chytil was able to collect a loose puck down below the faceoff circle off of a semi-broken play. With plenty of space in front of him, Chytil stared down Louis Domingue and snapped a quick shot over his shoulder to put the Rangers back in front.
After grabbing their second lead of the night, the Rangers fell back into their defensive game and played to protect the lead. It felt like nearly an eternity but the Rangers eventually got the job done. Ryan Lindgren, who was obviously still injured, played a monster game for the Rangers and put it all on the line to give the Rangers a chance.
It certainly wasn’t looking good early on in this game, but the Rangers found a way and they get another crack at it on Friday night in Pittsburgh.
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