After trailing the series 3-1, and opening Friday’s matchup in a two-goal hole, the Rangers have forced a Game 7.
Here are the takeaways from the Blueshirts’ 5-3 Game 6 win in Pittsburgh over the Penguins…
– Both offenses were shooting at a higher pace than Game 5 early in this one. The Penguins at one point held the puck in the Rangers zone for a few minutes, and the Rangers iced the puck twice, but the defense, for once, stood on its head, even with some shifts getting close to three minutes long. They also killed a penalty, but a few minutes later, after the first real scramble in front of Igor Shesterkin where he made four saves at the speed of lightning, Jeff Carter snuck one by and gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead.
Less than two minutes later, Jake Guentzel had a beautiful cross-ice pass to Bryan Rust who one-timed it into the net, making it a 2-0 game. The Rangers had some chances late, as Frank Vatrano hit the crossbar, and the Rangers scrambled in front of Louis Domingue, but the third-string goalie made some big saves to keep the Rangers scoreless on their 12 shots on goal in the first.
– Five minutes into the second period, the Rangers went on their first powerplay of the night after a silly roughing penalty by Evan Rodrigues — which turned into the turning point of the game — and just five seconds into it, Mika Zibanejad scored his first goal of the playoffs, but he wasn’t done yet. On their next visit to the zone, he slapped another one past Domingue to tie the game just 1:16 later.
– Zibanejad was soon penalized for a delay of game, though, putting the Pens on the powerplay. Kevin Rooney was then called for a trip, and the Rangers had to kill a 5-on-3. The crisis was averted, and Zibanejad had a breakaway right out of the box, but he hit the post. The Rangers killed the second penalty with Shesterkin playing like the Vezina favorite he is.
– Vatrano drew blood on a high stick, giving the Rangers a four-minute powerplay — and they didn’t even need a minute to take advantage. After Shesterkin’s pass that went the length of the ice to Zibanejad, Domingue made a save, but Chris Kreider put it back in on the rebound and gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead. Evgeni Malkin took matters into his own hands, though, intercepting a pass from Jacob Trouba and tying the game on a breakaway. The Rangers exploded for 18 shots on goal in the second, as they headed into the final 20 knotted up at three.
– There were just 10 shots on goal in the first 14 minutes of the third period, but both Shesterkin and Domingue made some big saves on great looks from both squads. But with 1:28 remaining in regulation, Kreider ripped a shot on net that was saved by Domingue, but it took a funny bounce off and above him and it trickled into the net to give the Blueshirts the late lead, and Kreider another goal.
– The Penguins pulled Domingue, but the Rangers defense was stout, and after a giveaway, Andrew Copp scored an empty-netter and clinch the win.
It was the kids who kept the Rangers alive in Game 5, and really, all series. But this time, the veterans in Zibanejad and Kreider combined for four goals.
– The scoring sequence (two by Penguins, one by Rangers, one by Penguins, two by Rangers) was identical to Game 5. Shesterkin stopped 22 of the Penguins’ final 23 shots.
– Pittsburgh was without Sidney Crosby, who suffered an upper-body injury in Game 5. We’ll keep tabs on his status for Game 7.
Game 7. Sunday night. 7 p.m. Madison Square Garden.