Artemi Panarin picked a great time to make his biggest impact of the playoffs for the New York Rangers.
After a mostly quiet performance through the first six games against the Pittsburgh Penguins, his power play goal early in overtime of Game 7 lifted the Rangers to a 4-3 win to send them to the Second Round where they will face the Carolina Hurricanes.
The fact they are here is somewhat stunning given the way this series played out. The Penguins out-shot them, out-chanced, and dominated pretty much every metric there is during 5-on-5 play and largely carried the play in the series. Not only that, Pittsburgh jumped out to a 3-1 series lead and was ahead in Games 5, 6, and 7, including multiple goal leads in Games 5 and 6.
The Rangers repeatedly looked like a team that was finished.
But they had the better goalie and the better special teams, and in the end those two things were enough to carry them.
Igor Shesterkin was not at his best in this series, allowing at least three goals in six of the seven games (and getting benched twice), but he was still significantly better than Louis Domingue and Tristan Jarry. Especially when you take into account the fact he faced by far the tougher of the chances in terms of both quality and quantity.
Shesterkin may not have played at his regular season MVP level, but he was still the Rangers’ best player. And they needed him to be.
Meanwhile, the Penguins simply could not get a big save at any point in the series. After coming out of nowhere to help win Game 1 in triple overtime, Domingue badly struggled in his five starts and gave up that crushing goal late in Game 6. On Sunday, Jarry returned and allowed four goals on 25 shots while clearly playing through the injury that sidelined him for more than a month.
It was also fitting that it was a power play goal that won it for the Rangers.
Their power play unit was lethal throughout the series and played a significant role in changing the past three games. Even though Pittsburgh’s power play scored some goals of its own, they also allowed a pair of shorthanded goals and failed to score on a pair of extended 5-on-3 situations in Games 5 and 6. Those were crushing.
In the end the Rangers are the first team in Stanley Cup playoff history to record three consecutive come-from-behind wins while facing elimination in the same series.
They did not make it easy on themselves. But they found a way.
NEW YORK RANGERS v. CAROLINA HURRICANES
Game 1 – May 18: Rangers at Hurricanes, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVA Sports)
Game 2 – May 20: Rangers at Hurricanes, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVA Sports)
Game 3 – May 22: Hurricanes at Rangers, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN, Sportsnet, SN360, TVA Sports)
Game 4 – May 24: Hurricanes at Rangers, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVA Sports)
*Game 5 – May 26: Rangers at Hurricanes, TBD
*Game 6 – May 28: Hurricanes at Rangers, TBD
*Game 7 – May 30: Rangers at Hurricanes, TBD
* if necessary
TBD – To Be Determined