Rangers vs. Penguins: Biggest Takeaways from Game 5
The Pittsburgh Penguins went out and dominated the New York Rangers in Game 4. The Blueshirts flipped the script on the Penguins in Game 5, taking it to the home team right from the outset. New York had its forecheck going early, and defenders were jumping into the play at every opportunity.
The kitchen sink has been thrown, and this Eastern Conference semifinal series is now 3-2 in Pittsburgh's favor.
It was an inspired effort from a Rangers team that came into the contest fighting all sorts of demons. Ryan McDonagh hadn't been playing well. Rick Nash has been totally snake bitten. Martin St. Louis received terrible news yesterday when he found out that his mother had unexpectedly passed away at the age of 63.
Somehow the Blueshirts found a way to punch through, and this series is heading back to Madison Square Garden for what should be a rowdy and rambunctious Game 6.
Statistics appear courtesy of NHL.com unless otherwise stated and are accurate through the end of Game 5.
Pittsburgh Penguins Penalty Kill Deserves Credit
Up until Game 5, you couldn't read anything about this series without hearing about how awful the Rangers have been on the power play. It doesn't seem like anyone is willing to give Pittsburgh's penalty-killers any credit, and that's a bit sideways.
Holding a team without a goal through 12 periods and 35 opportunities is impressive. New York managed to squeeze a shot through in the first period to break Pittsburgh's string of dominance, but the special teams deserve a stick tap for being outstanding in this series so far.
The Penguins PK is ranked ninth in the postseason, but their results against the Blueshirts have been much better, especially when you consider how awful they were in Round 1 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
New York scored a second power-play goal in the second period as well, but that has more to do with averages leveling out than Pittsburgh's play while down a man. As the series shifts to the Big Apple for a pivotal Game 6, the penalty-killing Penguins need to copy what they did in the first four games of the series and chuck the memory of Game 5 entirely.
It's Hard to Win Four Games in a Row in the Playoffs
The Penguins missed an opportunity to close out a tough opponent in five games, but they shouldn't be too discouraged with the results of Game 5. Winning four straight games during the regular season can be difficult—doing so in the playoffs is another beast altogether.
Having the puck luck needed to win four consecutive contests is uncommon, and straight up outplaying another postseason-quality team across 12 periods is a tall order. That's not to excuse the Penguins for not showing up in the first period, but they have two more chances to get rid of the Blueshirts.
Pittsburgh doesn't want to get too passive, lest memories of the 2011 quarterfinal begin to creep. Still, the game is in the rear view, and the Penguins need their top players to regroup and look ahead instead of mulling about what could have been.
New York's Third Line Must Be Stopped Somehow
Coming into the series, the names Derick Brassard, Benoit Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello didn't jump off the page. The trio had been New York's most consistent line during the regular season, but this semifinal features some big-time players.
Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang on one side. Rick Nash, Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis on the other.
Yet it's been the Rangers' third line doing a majority of the offensive damage, and the Penguins' depth forwards haven't been able to keep up. The trio has scored five goals in this series alone, and piled up a whopping seven points in Game 5.
Beau Bennett and Brian Gibbons have looked decent in spurts, but the forwards that can get it done offensively that populate Pittsburgh's bottom-six haven't been good enough. Lee Stempniak and Marcel Goc were acquired at the deadline to boost the Penguins' third and fourth lines, but so far that hasn't happened.
Evgeni Malkin Needs Some Compete-Level Company
A lot will be said about Pittsburgh's lack of compete level following Game 5. The one guy that obviously brought his A-game was Evgeni Malkin, who appeared to be all over the ice during the second period as Pittsburgh tried to claw back into the contest.
Malkin's spectacular individual effort cut New York's lead in half and should have been a breath of life for the Penguins. Pittsburgh rattled off 15 shots in the second period, but became flustered as Henrik Lundqvist stood his ground and gave up two more goals.
Frustrations seemed to peak for the Penguins as they failed to convert on a lengthy five-on-three at the end of the second frame, and the 4-1 game was all but over by that point.
No. 71 can't be counted to do everything by himself. Crosby saw several opportunities to make something happen, but was stifled by strong defense and Lundqvist. Meanwhile, Malkin's linemates—James Neal and Jussi Jokinen—were held to three shots total.
No Reason to Panic for Marc-Andre Fleury
The Penguins lost Game 5, so that means it's time for the annual pile onto Marc-Andre Fleury. After he won three straight games and pitched two shutouts, "Flower" wasn't at his best in this outing. Pittsburgh's forwards didn't do him many favors either.
New York scored two power-play goals, and both of them came on boneheaded plays by the Penguins. The Rangers scored their first marker with the extra man in the series after Robert Bortuzzo cleared the puck over the boards in the defensive zone.
That's not on Fleury.
The Blueshirts extended their lead to 4-1 on a Ryan McDonagh slapper that also came on the power play, this time after the Penguins were whistled for too many men on the ice. Fleury should have stopped the defender's shot, but he wasn't initially responsible for Pittsburgh's lazy line change.
There's plenty of blame to go around in the Penguins' locker room. Fleury will take the brunt of the damage because he's the easy target, but that shouldn't be the case.