The series between the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins will continue for a few more days. Rangers shrugged off a poor first half on Wednesday night and won 5-3 at Madison Square Garden.

In addition to losing, the Penguins lost the services of their captain Sidney Crosby, who left the game in the second period. Crosby was accidentally hit in the head.

It didn’t look good at all for the Rangers though. Truly not ! Trailing 3-1 in their series and 2-0 in the game, they seemed to be running out of answers. Until the middle of the second period, they looked anything but a team capable of coming back.

The crowd seemed to believe it less and less, too, and had lost its beautiful enthusiasm of the first twenty. The disc jockey was doing what he could to wake up fans by releasing hits from Big Apple artists like the Ramones and Billy Joel, but it was unusually quiet in the old Garden.

Then, without warning, Rangers struck three times in less than three minutes. Pip, puff, poof. Adam Fox, Alexis Lafrenière and Jacob Trouba beat goaltender Louis Domingue to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead.

Jake Guentzel tied the score 13 seconds after Trouba’s goal, but the damage was done. The Rangers had just taken their wanderings and the “momentum”, and it was confirmed in the third period.

Filip Chytil restored Rangers’ lead on the power play early in the third and the New Yorkers dominated the game for the first 15 minutes of the 20th. The visitors threatened in the final minutes, but Igor Shesterkin finally had a good time and closed the door.

Shesterkin had finished the previous two games sitting at the end of the bench. On the first goal of Game 5, he was beaten from behind the goal by Guentzel, who deflected the puck by throwing it at the Russian goalie. Nothing to put Shesterkin at ease.

But the Rangers goalkeeper can count on the support of his coach Gerard Gallant and that of the club’s supporters. Gallant directed the blame on his skaters after the beating suffered at Pittsburgh in Game 4, calling their play too soft. The crowd chanted “Igor” repeatedly on Wednesday night, as if to reassure Shesterkin, whose game was very uncertain.

The best Rangers player in their victory? Alexis Lafreniere.

Rangers’ top management need not worry, Lafrenière will become the player we expected when he was the very first pick in the draft two years ago. His stats will improve as he gets more playing time, especially on the power play, but right now his game is already very solid for a 20-year-old. The beautiful goal he scored with a one-timer on Wednesday night should give him a small dose of confidence.

The game of Kaapo Kakko, second prospect selected in 2019, is a little more worrying, even if he is only 21 years old. In the middle of the second period, the author of these lines did not even know if Kakko was in uniform…

But to be honest, aside from Lafrenière and Chris Kreider, every Rangers striker looked set for the holidays in the first half of the game. Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad are certainly capable of giving more.

On the Penguins side, Guentzel has proven once again that he is one of the best players in the NHL when the playoffs begin. He scored twice and scored in his seventh straight playoff game.

Crosby collided with defenseman Jacob Trouba in the second period and suffered a possible concussion. He looked visibly uncomfortable on the Penguins bench in the moments following the collision.

After continuing to play for a few minutes, Crosby returned to the locker room in the second period and never returned. Given Crosby’s history of suffering multiple concussions, that’s the only possible decision.

Crosby’s absence in the second half was certainly a factor in the Penguins’ loss. Without their big playmaker to calm things down or score the ‘big’ goal, they never managed to contain and stop the Rangers push.

In a series that began with a six-period game and will continue Friday night in Pittsburgh, the Rangers should normally have the advantage, as they are a younger team than the Penguins. They will be even more so if Crosby has to be absent, which unfortunately seems quite likely at the moment.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here