The New York Rangers know what it’s like to come back from a 3-1 series deficit. They’ve done it, most recently against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2014. The roles have been reversed in the 2015 rematch after New York earned a 2-1 overtime win against Pittsburgh in Game 4 tonight, and the Rangers are well aware that the Penguins are no more out of it than they were last year.
Remembering what it was like, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist expects the Penguins to give them everything they’ve got in Game 5 on Friday.
“It’s desperation mode for them and the key is to match that,” Lundqvist said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Seth Rorabaugh. “You have to grab every opportunity you get to finish a series. You can’t just think you have more chances. You’ve got to go for it and match their desperation. It’s tough. Every game here has been one goal and it’s not going to be easy. We have to prepare the right way mentally, physically and get ready for battle.”
There wasn’t a lot of optimism surrounding the Penguins going into this series given the way they limped into the playoffs, but it’s worth remembering that they’ve been competitive in every game in this series. Not much would have had to change for this series to look very different going into Friday’s contest.
Penguins star forward Evgeni Malkin has no points and just five shots on goal so far. If he was having a better series, that alone might have been enough to tip the scale in the Penguins’ favor. As it is, Malkin bouncing back would be enough to give Pittsburgh a fighting chance going forward.
Goaltender Corey Crawford has led the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup championship, but when Chicago attempts to eliminate Nashville on Thursday, he won’t be playing between the pipes. Rookie Scott Darling has been a big part of the first round series and will get another start in Game 5.
It’s an impressive, yet oddly common story this season. If you look at the GAA leaders so far in the 2015 postseason, you won’t see Carey Price or Henrik Lundqvist listed in the top-three. Instead it’s Darling, Devan Dubnyk, and Jake Allen. Three netminders who weren’t in starting roles when the campaign began. Then there’s Petr Mrazek, who shutout the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday to give Detroit a 2-1 series lead.
“It might be the year of the backup goalie this year,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told CSN Chicago. “Somebody you’ve never heard of may get an opportunity and all of a sudden is a key guy. We all know the importance of the goalie and how the guy who is playing well is getting that net. Sometimes it’s competitive with internal competition but at the same time the rapport is excellent [with the normal starter] and it’s a healthy situation to be in.”
The question is if this trend will continue. Dubnyk really can’t be regarded as a backup anymore and that’s been true since Minnesota acquired him, but if Darling, Allen, or Mrazek falter, then their respective teams might not wait long to replace them.
We’ve already seen Ottawa’s Andrew Hammond be relegated to warming the bench despite his tremendous regular season run and Vancouver’s Eddie Lack was yanked early in Tuesday’s contest. Even still, at this point it’s entirely possible that the goaltender who leads his team to a Stanley Cup championship will be one that didn’t hold the starting job at the beginning of the season.
Was Game 3 about the New York Rangers’ smothering defense or merely a listless start by the Pittsburgh Penguins?
Whatever the answer may be – possibly a combination of the two – the Penguins gave the Consol Energy Center crowd little to cheer for until the late stages of a 2-1 Rangers win. New York also earned itself a 2-1 series lead with this decision.
After combining for eight shots on goal in the first period of Game 2, the Rangers and Penguins only had 10 in the opening frame (seven for New York).
That hardly bothered the road Rangers, though, as they cruised to a 2-0 lead through the first 40 minutes of the game. In that span, the Penguins managed just 11 shots on goal and often looked dead-legged and/or disinterested. There were some moments in which officiating came into question, yet the overall effort was spotty nonetheless.
The third period was a different story, but not enough to change the outcome.
Pittsburgh turned it on quite a bit, especially after Patric Hornqvist made it 2-1. There were some hectic moments at the end, yet Henrik Lundqvist & Co. held strong for an important win.
After all the positive vibes and talk of “mental edges,” the Penguins seemed to wake up too late in this one. Now they find themselves in a crucial Game 4 in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
You hear the “60-minute effort” cliche a lot, yet that might be a fair thing to trot out after a late arrival like this.
Speaking of starts, here’s Mike Milbury’s interesting take on the game: