Penguins vs. Rangers Game 6: Keys for Pittsburgh to Win
Game 5 didn't go according to plan for the Pittsburgh Penguins. They tried to take an unfamiliar route home and got shaken down by a hungrier and more determined New York Rangers team. They were outshot 17-9 in the first period and trailed 2-0 after the first 20 minutes.
Not exactly the kind of start the Penguins wanted on home ice.
The game ended and the Blueshirts celebrated a well-deserved victory. They were just more emotionally charged and desperate than Pittsburgh, and not without reason. There are a few things the Penguins need to do and can do in Game 6 to put the pesky Rangers away though.
All statistics appear courtesy of NHL.com and are accurate through Game 5.
Pittsburgh's Depth Scorers Need to Show Up
New York's depth players have been getting it done all series long. Derrick Brassard, Benoit Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello have been dynamite. Sidney Crosby knows a good line when he sees one, and spoke to Dave Caldwell of The Wall Street Journal about how effective the trio has been:
They're pretty good at holding on to the puck in their offensive zone. They're skilled guys. They don't need a lot of space to create plays. When you're against a line like that, part of you understands they're going to get possession, so if they do, you want to eliminate the momentum they create.
Eliminating the momentum they create is exactly what the Penguins need to do in Game 6. And if—for whatever reason—they can't shut the third line down, then players like Brian Gibbons and Beau Bennett need to contribute.
So far in this series the top lines have been a bit of a wash. When the Rangers have won, it's been because of their bottom-six. Pittsburgh has the depth to hang. The players just need to start attacking the net with more tenacity.
Control the Low
The Penguins had and blew a big opportunity in Game 5. They know they let one get away.
Now they need to forget about it—they need to control the low—and get back on track in New York. Head coach Dan Bylsma addressed that fact with gathered media following the contest, and Adam Kimelman of NHL.com captured the bench boss' thoughts:
You have to turn the page real quick. We're getting on a plane [Saturday] and we have to go to the Garden for Game 6. It's a tough building and a team that's playing desperate right now. They played desperate in Game 5 and had a big victory. Now we're forced to go back there and play better. We have to play with that same desperation [as the Rangers] and we have to do it back there.
"Turning the page real quick," as Bylsma said, will be the No. 1 key for the Penguins in Game 6. Some movement on the power play would be nice. Matching up with New York's third line will be big, but Pittsburgh isn't going anywhere unless it stops beating itself.
Scoring first while on the road in the playoffs is always a key, but it takes on a particular level of importance in this series. Through the first five games, the team that has scored first has gone on to win.
That stands in stark contrast to the first round against the Columbus Blue Jackets. No lead seemed to be safe in the quarterfinal, and the Penguins could just wait for bounces to go their way before knotting things up.
This is a different team though, and giving Henrik Lundqvist a lead to work with in Game 6 will likely lead to a Game 7. Scoring first isn't just important. It's crucial. Trailing after two periods doesn't seem to be an option either.
The Rangers have yet to lose a game in these playoffs after leading through 40 minutes of action.
First Period Must Be Cleaner
Pittsburgh has lost twice in this series, and the first periods of Games 1 and 5 were eerily similar. In the first contest of this semifinal, the Rangers carried a 2-0 lead into the first intermission after outshooting the Penguins, 13-8.
In Game 5, the Penguins trailed 2-0 after the first 20 minutes once again, and were staring down a wide gap in total shots. In this series, it seems like whoever starts off with the most energy wins, and Pittsburgh needs to be aware of that.
Sunday is Mother's Day, and it's going to be an emotional game for the Blueshirts. They'll still be rallying around Martin St. Louis, and the crowd at Madison Square Garden will be rowdy. The Penguins need to find a way to come out flying.
Forget the old "weathering the storm on the road" approach. Pittsburgh needs to be the storm or else this series is going back to Steel City for Game 7.