Facing elimination, and after three straight games of — ahem — highly unenthused hockey, the New York Rangers flipped the switch to "on" in dispatching the Penguins 5-1, trimming Pittsburgh's series lead to three games to two. Chris Kreider and Derick Brassard scored in a first period that mimicked the opening frame of the series — both in puck possession and result — only this time, the Blueshirts didn't surrender their 2-0 lead. Evgeni Malkin dazzled to make it 2-1 in the second, but Brassard responded with his second shortly thereafter, and Ryan McDonagh broke through for his first of the playoffs less than a minute later. Kevin Klein iced it late in the third with an empty netter.
- Chalk it up to whatever you want — fatigue, the Penguins improved play, or some other factor — but that was a Rangers' team we haven't seen since early in the series. The Blueshirts out-skated and out-hit the Penguins — especially in the first when they had 17 shots — and forced Pittsburgh to the play in the zone where they are the weakest — their own. On a night when there was no shortage of things to play for — pride, prolonging the season, a respected teammate in his time of need — the Rangers appeared desperate and inspired. It will need to continue if they're to complete the comeback.
- Hopefully, most of us will never have to understand the courage it took for Martin St. Louis to play tonight, just a day after learning of his mother's passing. St. Louis is a future Hall of Famer and a Stanley Cup Champion with nothing left to prove — he didn't have to play tonight. The fact that he did speaks volumes to his character and dedication to his teammates. Because transcribing his words can't do them justice, here's what St. Louis had to say in full postgame:
- The Rangers — to a man — pretty much all echoed the sentiment that St. Louis inspired them. Ryan McDonagh said: "You could see it in his eyes. He was trying to be himself, but there was something just a little off. But he got focused, and right from the start of the game, was playing a great game, and guys just fed off his emotion." Henrik Lundqvist succinctly stated: "We played for Marty."
- Not to be lost in the in the St. Louis storyline is that the Rangers' power play — putrid since early in the first round — got off the schneid with two markers. The second of which — McDonagh's blast from the point — should've been stopped, but for a group that has undoubtedly been pressing with the man advantage, they'll take it.
- The Brassard-Zuccarello-Pouliot unit continues to be the Rangers' only consistent source of offense at even strength. Brassard had two goals and an assist, Zuccarello three helpers, and Pouliot added an assist as well. It's not only the Blueshirts' most creative line, but the one that forechecks with the most gusto as well.
- If most fans had a choice as to which of the Blueshirts' scoreless stars they'd want to see find the back of the net, they'd have chosen Rick Nash. But still, McDonagh getting on the scoresheet is a welcome sign — not only because his offense is needed, but because the rearguard complimented his goal with his finest defensive hockey of the postseason. As for the Nash watch, this latest edition saw Big 61 miss an open net from a sharp angle early on and be largely unnoticeable otherwise.
- Chris Kreider had his best game since returning from injury. He had plenty of velocity on the shot he snuck between the post and Marc-Andre Fleury's pad, suggesting that his wrist is feeling better, and played a passionate game — forechecking, diving for loose pucks, and throwing six hits.
- Evgeni Malkin was a monster — since game one, he's been the best player on the ice for either side. Every time he touched the puck, it seemed like there was a chance he'd do something seemingly impossible — his 1-on-2 goal that saw him undress Marc Staal and Dan Girardi serving as the most notable example. The best recipe for slowing down Malkin is a Ryan McDonagh that is playing at the top of his game.
- Marc-Andre Fleury was highly unspectacular — but not bad — while Henrik Lundqvist excelled in making 31 saves.
- Pittsburgh — especially Sidney Crosby — appeared visibly frustrated in the third period. Much like Claude Giroux in the last round, Crosby has spent more time chirping than he has playing hockey — and it's very much in the Rangers' best interest to keep it that way.
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