The Resilient Rangers are still here.
Staving off elimination in Game 5, the Rangers took advantage of an injury to star Penguins center Sidney Crosby – who left toward the end of the second period – and pulled out a 5-3 win Wednesday night in front of a sold-out crowd of 18,006 at Madison Square Garden.
Filip Chytil, who said during his pregame media availability that he was itching to get on the ice after the Rangers’ no-show in Game 4, notched the game-winning goal on a power play less than three minutes into the third period.
Game 6 of the first-round Stanley Cup playoff series is set for Friday night in Pittsburgh. The Rangers, who trail 3-2 in the series, will have to win at PPG Paints Arena, where they gave up a combined 14 goals in Games 3 and 4.
After the Penguins took a 2-0 lead, the kids led the way for the Rangers, as they have for much of this series. The Kid Line of Chytil, Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko recorded two goals, with the game-tying tally coming from Lafreniere at 16:41 of the second period, off a slick feed from Kakko behind Pittsburgh’s net.
The Rangers regained some grit on their back end with Ryan Lindgren getting back in the lineup after missing the last three games with an undisclosed lower-body injury. Lindgren, who was his usual hard-nosed self, capped the scoring on an empty-netter with 16 seconds left in the game.
Igor Shesterkin had the Garden crowd chanting his name before the national anthem even played. The fans in attendance surely knew just how much their star goalie needed some encouragement after he was pulled in the previous two games. Shesterkin made 28 saves in the win, including 12 in the third period.
The Garden crowd seemingly started to lose hope after Kris Letang’s one-timer off an Evgeni Malkin feed at 7:58 of the second period gave the Penguins a 2-0 lead. Pittsburgh was clogging every lane, blocking shot after shot and pushing the Rangers to the perimeter in all three zones.
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But when Crosby left for the locker room with 6:32 left in the middle frame, after absorbing a hard hit from Jacob Trouba, things suddenly opened up for the Rangers, who scored three goals in the span of 2:42.
Coincidence? Probably not.
After sustaining some offensive zone time, Adam Fox wired one high-glove on Louis Domingue to cut the Rangers’ deficit to 2-1 and wake up every Blueshirts fan in the building. From behind Pittsburgh’s net, Kakko then fed Lafreniere in front even the score. Lafreniere continued to feed the crowd, pumping his hands up as he celebrated his second goal of the series.
Trouba rode the Rangers momentum, driving to the net and finishing with his backhand to give his team its first lead of the night at 17:53. The Penguins, however, tied it back up 13 seconds later when Jake Guentzel buried another from the slot.
The Rangers made things difficult for themselves just 24 seconds after the puck drop, when Chris Kreider took a slashing penalty and Trouba was called for elbowing to send the Penguins on a five-on-three advantage early. Pittsburgh didn’t capitalize, but seemingly built momentum off of it as the Rangers didn’t put a single shot on goal until seven minutes in.
Guentzel collected his own rebound and banked it in off Shesterkin from below the goal line to open the scoring with his sixth tally of the series at 10:28.