The Resilient Rangers are still here.
They refused to be eliminated Wednesday night in Game 5 of their first playoff series and a 5-3 victory over the Penguins – former star Sidney Crosby at the end of the second half – before a sold-out team. 18006 at Madison Square Garden.
The Blueshirts, who did not show off their entire show at Game 4 in Pittsburgh behind them, have come back from a tough loss and bad times throughout the season. Until Game 5, however, they had not played in the series and we are not the firefighters who have promoted them for the past seven months.
Not only coming out of the first race, but also confirming their regular win on the line, the Rangers sent the series to Pittsburgh. 6 games were set for Friday night at the PPG Paints Arena, with the Rangers conceding 14 goals conceded in Game 3 and 4.
“We are not happy about what happened in Pittsburgh,” said Filip Chytil, who scored the winning goal in less than three minutes before the third decision. “This was just, both games, something [that] we haven’t done it all season. We haven’t played all season [the] the way we play, just [to] throwing games like this in Pittsburgh.
“That’s why we had a great meeting, doing well yesterday and we just hope today that we will win and get back to Pittsburgh.”
Chytil said that before the game he could not talk about his teammates, but he himself wanted to climb the ice. It was obvious how much Ranger’s frustrations in Pittsburgh were heavy on the Czech winner – and the rest of the Ranger.
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With the Penguin leading 2-0, the youngsters led the way for the Rangers, as they have been involved in much of the series. Chytil, Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko added two goals.
Lafreniere added a 2-2 lead in the 16:41 second leg from Kakko behind the Pittsburgh net. The first 2020 nominee raised his hands to the Garden team as he celebrated his second goal of the series.
“We’re having a good time,” Lafreniere said. “But you have to work hard at all times, every change is necessary. That’s what makes it so exciting.”
Rangers also suffered back pain and Ryan Lindgren was back on the line after missing the last three games with an unexplained injury. Lindgren, who was his brave full-time man and was found to be in the middle of several pieces, scored the goal on an empty net with 16 seconds left in the game.
Igor Shesterkin had a Garden band singing his name before the national anthem. Fans know that the players they played with needed encouragement after being drawn in the last two games. Shesterkin saved 29, plus 15 in the third quarter.
The Garden team seems to have begun to lose hope after Kris Letang outscored Evgeni Malkin at 7:58 in the second half to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead. Pittsburgh was blocking every turn, blocking a shot after a shot and pushing the Rangers all around in all three rounds.
But when Crosby went into the locker room at 6:32 left in the middle, after a powerful strike from Jacob Trouba, things suddenly opened up for Rangers, who scored three goals – from Lafreniere, Adam Fox and Trouba – in 2:42.
By accident? Probably not.
Top line winner Jake Guentzel kept the Penguins race, scoring goals in the first half and scoring 3-3 in the final second minute. However, the Rangers did a fight that reduced the number of strikes they took in the last two games in Pittsburgh.
Head coach Gerard Gallant obviously could not have said for sure if his team would win this and avoid relegation, but he knew the effort would be there – and it did.
“They were as competitive as hell tonight and that’s what we want from them,” Gallant said. “Be competitive, try and win many individual battles, and we played hard. We lost 2-0, but we played hard all the time and fought hard.”