The New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins provided a thrilling Game 1 Friday night. In a back-and-forth contest, the Rangers prevailed by a score of 3-2 in a dramatic overtime finish.
Still, winning this series may be a daunting task for the Rangers due to their history against the Penguins, as Steve Mears of NHL Live points out:
Before Game 1 against the Penguins, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault acknowledged the upcoming series would be a challenge, telling Jeff Z. Klein of The New York Times, "On paper, Pittsburgh's one of the best teams in the league. We're going to have our hands full."
That was true Friday, as shifts in momentum were plentiful throughout the game.
New York came out on fire in the first period with goals from Benoit Pouliot and Brad Richards, while Henrik Lundqvist looked flawless in goal.
Pouliot's goal was a great shot between the circles which flew past Marc-Andre Fleury before he had a fair chance to react.
The Penguins found some offense shortly after, with Chris Kunitz firing a couple of shots in Lundqvist's direction. However, the Rangers goaltender remained stout, recording a couple of huge saves.
The Rangers pulled out to a 2-0 lead following a goal from Richards in the waning minutes of the period.
It was all New York in the first period, and NHL on NBC tweeted a very telling graphic:
Yet, not everything was going the Rangers' way. The team continued to struggle on power plays, and ESPN's Katie Strang tweeted the stats:
The dominance wouldn't last, though, as the Penguins surged in a big way during the second period.
Beau Bennett dropped the puck off for Lee Stempniak to get the Penguins on the board.
Pittsburgh continued its attack as James Neal flicked one in Lundqvist's direction and came away with the Penguins' second goal.
Lundqvist wasn't happy with the outcome, thinking he was interfered with on the play, but the goal was upheld and a tie game ensued.
Here's a look at Neal's goal, courtesy of the Penguins' official Twitter account:
The horn sounded at the end of two periods with a 2-2 score.
Even though the Penguins proved to be resurgent during the second period, surprisingly enough, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were rather quiet to that point.
Before the third period began, Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger noted the shots on goal were in the Penguins' favor:
Rangers and Penguins are tied, 2-2, after two periods. Shots are 23-17 Pittsburgh. http://t.co/vc5e1psY57— Rich Chere (@Ledger_NJDevils) May 3, 2014
Fleury looked great in the opening minutes of the third period. His prowess, combined with the Rangers' continued power-play struggles, did not bode well for New York.
Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News tweeted his thoughts:
Rangers 0-for-4 on power play and 4-for-4 on penalty kill tonight. They are what they were late in reg season at moment— Pat Leonard (@PLeonardNYDN) May 3, 2014
Throughout the majority of the third period, both teams looked sharp. Each continued to trade shots on goal, as both goaltenders refused to let anything find the net.
The waning minutes of the third period felt like an overtime session. The fast-paced action on both ends of the ice was exhilarating and intense. Neither team seemed able to gain the upper hand.
After three periods, the game indeed headed into OT.
A tweet from Hockey Night in Canada really summed up this year's postseason:
Vigneault said he pulled an all-nighter preparing for the game against Pittsburgh. As we headed into overtime, Leonard tweeted his hope viewers wouldn't be doing the same on Friday night. Deadlines, you know:
Alain Vigneault said earlier he pulled an "all-nighter" Wednesday preparing for Pittsburgh. Hopefully we can't empathize after Game 1— Pat Leonard (@PLeonardNYDN) May 3, 2014
Well, the wait didn't last long.
Derick Brassard fired one past Fleury during a scrum in front of the net at the 3:06 mark of overtime. Originally, it appeared as though it was deflected off the crossbar and Pouliot's rebound was the game-winner; however, after further review, Brassard's shot absolutely crossed, and he was awarded the goal.
Sean Fitz-Gerald of the National Post had a humorous take on the scenario:
Wow, the New York Rangers scored twice on the same scramble in overtime.— SeanFitz_Gerald (@SeanFitz_Gerald) May 3, 2014
With a final score of 3-2, the Rangers earned a solid road victory and got out to the early 1-0 series lead.
According to the Rangers' official Twitter account, Vigneault spoke of his impression on the team's most productive line on the evening during a post-game press conference:
AV, when asked about Pouliot-Brassard-Zuccarello line tonight, replies: "They played real good..scored two goals in overtime!" #NYRPlayoffs— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) May 3, 2014
Pouliot was pleased with his team's performance and expressed his feelings during the post-game press conference as well:
Coming off his game-winning goal, Brassard mentioned how big this win was for the team, with his thoughts being relayed by Chere on NJ.com:
I'm just happy we won this game. It's obviously huge when you win the first game. It puts a lot of pressure on the other team. Every night there is a different guy who is going to make a difference in this room. It's a big win for us.
Both teams will be looking to increase their efficiency on power plays in Sunday's game, as neither was able to generate any kind of production in that area during Game 1.
One thing is for sure: If this game provides any indication on what's to come in this series, we are really in for some exciting hockey.