After six games, the common thread for the Penguins and Rangers is that Pittsburgh pushes and pushes and takes a lead, but then gives it back (and more) at times due to substandard goaltending. The “two steps forward, three steps back” routine continued for the Pens on Friday as they retired Game 6 in New York.
Minus Sidney Crosby (and Tristan Jarry…and Brian Dumoulin…and Rickard Rakell), the Penguins bravely faced their rise, backed by a raucous crowd at PPG Paints Arena.
The Pens finally entered the board after 14:12 of play, when Igor Shesterkin couldn’t catch a point shot from Marcus Pettersson with his glove. The rebound bounced for Kasperi Kapanen to throw on goal and stayed loose for Jeff Carter to step in on the backhand to allow Pittsburgh to score first.
Big Jeff Carter delivers once again to Penguins fans.
Carter’s four first-round goals all came at PPG Paints Arena. pic.twitter.com/L1JmGKCiTX
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 13, 2022
The Pens kept their foot on the gas and were rewarded just 1:36 after Carter’s goal with a second. Jake Guentzel picked up a puck and turned around, spotted a wide open Bryan Rust and threw a nice pass to him. Rust quickly whipped the puck to the net to beat Shesterkin and send the fans into a frenzy to make it 2-0 in the first period.
IN RUST WE TRUST… Especially in elimination matches.
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 13, 2022
But no lead has been safe for the Pens throughout the series, and it took just 1:16 early in the second period for Mika Zibanejad to erase all of his loneliness.
One of the game’s turning points came when Ryan Lindgren threw Evan Rodrigues into the boards from behind. Naturally, no penalty was called but Rodrigues got up and gave Lindgren a retaliatory shot, which was whistled. Just five seconds later, Rangers got on the scoreboard and had life when Zibanejad cleanly won a face-off from Teddy Blueger, dug into the slot and fired. Louis Domingue was blocked by Kris Letang and couldn’t see him.
With momentum, Zibanejad reminded the crowd of Pittsburgh’s lack of quality in the net with a long shot that went into the net to tie the game at 2-2.
The Pens’ offense had its chance with an extended powerplay to 5-3 and a timeout used to maximize the energy of the top players, but they didn’t come close to scoring.
New York would use this moving forward. With Mike Matheson in the box for a minor double call, the Pens went for a change, but Shesterkin made a pass for who else but Zibanejad. His hard kick hit Domingue’s glove and sat on a plateau for Chris Kreider to hit him from the front. Hard to blame Domingue for this one, though in a perfect world, maybe that puck doesn’t pop out of his glove for a chance at a rebound.
With the Pens on the ropes, who else but Evgeni Malkin was there to send the team a lifeline late in the second period? Jacob Trouba attempted a d-to-d cross pass in the area which Malkin read and moved forward. From there, Geno edged out K’Andre Miller and quickly fired a low kick into the glove past compatriot Shesterkin to put the Pens level.
As the teams fought in the third in search of the decisive goal, it would be New York who would find it. Kreider fired from the outside and, well, Domingue is doing his best. The shot hits him high, he thinks he’s kept it in front of him, but he’s actually powered up and above him and floats into the net with 1:28 to play.
Andrew Copp nails an empty net in the dying seconds to secure a Game 7 on Sunday and set the final score at 5-3.
- It’s hard to be too harsh, in a very real way Penguins are fighting with a hand tied behind their back with a third goaltender, now no Crosby, no Dumoulin and Rakell for the last five games . They have a lot of spunk and are *** right there *** but sometimes that’s just not enough.
- If it is not yet clear, no track is safe with Louis Domingue. Yes, he is overwhelmed and fighting to stay out of the water. Sometimes he can get in the way and give Pens a chance. But he just can’t and won’t keep them above level for a full 60 minutes, minus a total flurry of goals the other way. It’s not meant to be mean or rude, it’s just a fact at this point.
- There are and were controversies over the referees having to make that call to Rodrigues, which swayed the game. But Mike Sullivan wasn’t giving the referees a death glare when Rodrigues came out of the box and brought the skate of shame back to his bench, the gaze was entirely on Rodrigues. Pens must be spotless. At that point, weak call or not, Rodrigues was not. This gave life to a lifeless Rangers team.
- Have PPG Paints been the strongest after that Malkin goal since Chris Kunitz’s 2OT Game 7 goal against Ottawa in 2017? The argument could be made. It was such a good play made by Gene to push the puck in front, and fire up the jets, and then the anticipation built for him to finish. It’s a shame the Pens lost that game for a lot of reasons, but chief among them is that the goal of giving Pittsburgh a chance in the third would have been up there in franchise lore at that time. .
- Jacob Trouba was on the ice for all three Pens goals tonight, and looked particularly bad on more than one. If that’s not a little wink and nod from the ‘hockey gods’ as retribution for avoiding punishment for hurting Crosby with a high kick, I don’t know what is. is.
- Biggest missed opp: 1:07 on 5v3? Or Rust skiing Malkin’s pass just ahead in the third? Either way, the two will sting at a time like this.
Blowing multi-goal leads in Games 5 and 6 really stings for the Pens, especially since in many ways they carry the game and are the best team overall. But their injury-induced weaknesses are very real and tend to show. It’s hard to line for a full 60 minutes, try as pens can do. But on Sunday they will have one more chance to try again.