It didn’t take long, only 38 seconds, for New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider to make an impact on Saturday’s Game 2 against the Washington Capitals.
His goal, which came off a rebound in the first minute of play, got the Rangers started on their way to a dominant first period and an eventual win to even the series at one game apiece.
Kreider could’ve had more, too, his speed a factor throughout the game. He led all New York forwards in ice time, and had eight shot attempts to go with four hits.
“He’s a huge difference maker. He puts a big influence on the game for us the way he can skate, the way he can hit and his shot and his physicality,” said Ryan McDonagh, as per Rangers Rants. “All together it’s a tough combo to defend for anyone. It’s a good sign that he was able to get it going and he’s got to continue that for us if we want to be successful.”
Added Dan Boyle: “He’s been doing it all year. He’s the fastest player I’ve ever played with by far and I’ve played with some pretty fast players. Possibly the strongest. He’s done it all year long.”
Alex Ovechkin got the Capitals to within one midway through the third period with a highlight-reel goal.
Ovechkin split Rangers defensemen Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, and then beat Henrik Lundqvist top corner while falling.
“The guy pushed him to the outside, there were almost three guys around him and he still got a shot off his knees,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. “He’s a great player.”
Tough news out of New York today — the Rangers have announced that forward Mats Zuccarello will be sidelined indefinitely with an upper-body injury, which the Post is reporting to be a concussion.
Zuccarello was hurt in the first period of Saturday’s Game 5 series-clinching win over Pittsburgh, after taking this Ryan McDonagh shot to the helmet:
Zuccarello left the game and didn’t return.
The loss, if lengthy, will be a significant one for the Blueshirts. The 27-year-old averaged a career-high 17:15 TOI this season and finished third on the team in assists, with 34. The Norwegian winger also inked a four-year, $18 million extension with New York in early March and, last year, was given the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award for being the player who, as chosen by the fans, “goes above and beyond the call of duty.”
In this year’s opening round against Pittsburgh, Zuccarello had two points in five games. The Rangers will take the winner of tonight’s Caps-Isles game in Round 2.
New York Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello wasn’t able to join his teammates for the start of the second period in Game 5 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Shortly after the frame began, the Rangers confirmed that he was done for the night.
Zuccarello was struck in the head by teammate Ryan McDonagh’s shot late in the first period. He immediately headed to the locker room, but the good news is that he did so on his own strength.
You can see the incident below:
Losing the 27-year-old forward for any amount of time would be a significant blow for the Rangers. He’s coming off of a solid regular season where he scored 15 goals and 49 points in 78 contests. That led to him signing a four-year, $18 million extension in March.
He also had two assists in the four playoff games coming into tonight’s action.
The Pittsburgh Penguins limped into the playoffs due in part to a battered defense and a drop in performance from goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Neither was the issue in Pittsburgh’s 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the first round series.
While Fleury did surrender the opening goal just 28 seconds into the contest on a juicy rebound, he was solid for the most part, turning aside 36 of 38 shots on goal. In the end, the Penguins just couldn’t find a way to get much going against the Rangers or netminder Henrik Lundqvist.
At least the Penguins can say that they played better in the final 40 minutes of this contest, if only because they set the bar low in the first period. After Derick Brassard gave the Rangers the early lead, Pittsburgh got into penalty trouble, taking four minors over the course of the opening frame. That kept Sidney Crosby off the ice for much of the first. It also led to New York’s Ryan McDonagh scoring what proved to be the game-winning goal:
Pittsburgh’s Blake Comeau kept things interesting with his marker at 6:15 of the second period. Crosby and Evgeni Malkin combined for just three shots on goal.
If there is a silver lining in this for the Penguins, it’s that the first round is just getting started. If they take Game 2 on Saturday then they’ll be in a solid position for when the series heads to Pittsburgh.