Rangers’ top forwards make it big as they defeat the Penguins

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Artemi Panarin and his teammates provided some dazzle and a dose of good-looking hockey on Thursday night, but considering Rangers got off the ground on skill and ability in their 5-2 Game 2 win over the Penguins at the Garden are finesse, that would be wrong.

That’s because the Blueshirts equalized that first round with a win, just prevailing in the kind of street fighting that’s becoming prevalent in the playoffs. No one dropped their gloves, that wasn’t the point here. Not at all.

But it was all about Rangers competing in tight turns and the contested areas of the ice. It was about puck support and retrieval. It was about taking the body and throwing a punch to make a play while working on the walls and in the hockey ditches.

Responding to the numerous times the Penguins got a piece from Igor Shesterkin, it was once again sensational with 38 saves – nine of them in the first 6:51 of the third period while defending a 3-2 lead.

Hey, with Brian Burke and Ron Hextall in the Pittsburgh front office, and with Evan Rodrigues tripping Shesterkin in the crease at 1:00 of the first third, it’s not hard to believe this is part of the organization’s game plan. The keeper was bumped early and then late (plus a few times in between), with Jeff Carter getting a keeper’s piece with 2:04 in the game while No. 31 tried to get back into the net after playing the puck out back the goal line.

“I wasn’t that happy in a game like that, there was no reason for that,” said head coach Gerard Gallant. “I was disappointed that they pursued him a bit like that.

A scuffle erupts in the third half after Jeff Carter collides with Igor Shesterkin.
Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

“Carter is a good, honest player, but it wasn’t looking good for me.”

The win also involved not allowing Sidney Crosby and linemates Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust to take the freeway to avoid traffic, despite that unit scoring both Pittsburgh goals and being relentlessly dangerous. Still, they had to create their chances, and they did, snapping and then just slicing through the blueshirts from end to end.

Rangers would need more of their high-end forwards in this first quasi-must-win game of Gallant’s tenure. And they got more. Frank Vatrano, who had a quiet Game 1, was involved throughout. His shot from up front was deflected off Chris Kreider for a 3-1 lead at 12:06 of the second home before Vatrano zipped past Louis Domingue with a shot down the right boards for a 5-2 goal at 9:49 of the des third.

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Mika Zibanejad worked 200 feet to draw the Crosby matchup about 50 percent of the time, which became an analysis saw-off. Ryan Strome scored with a power play deflection, while Andrew Copp scored his second goal in two games, this time after a deft look-away and a handsome feed from Artemi Panarin.

Ah, Panarin, having an adventure out there. He did more with the puck than he did in Tuesday’s opener. He created. He made this nifty play to set up Copp. He scored the decisive 4-2 goal at 8:02 of the third (after the Penguins scored nine of the third’s first ten shots) by one-hitting defenseman Mike Matheson after shaking Kris Letang in a circle.

“Actually, I was looking [Jacob] Trouba,” Panarin said without lying. “I was trying to get the puck to him.”

So it’s just as well that Matheson was the middleman.

Artemi Panarin (center) celebrates with Rangers teammates after the team's Game 2 win over the Penguins.
Artemi Panarin (center) celebrates with Rangers teammates after the team’s Game 2 win over the Penguins.
USA TODAY sports

But Panarin also committed an outrageous turnover in the first half that set off the sequence in which Guentzel equalized at 8:52 to make it 1-1 when Crosby picked up his faulty feed in the neutral zone. And No. 10 was also late on the backcheck, unable to pick up Crosby and stay with the rush that saw No. 87 hit on a rebound to make it 3-2 with 1:26 left in the second period.

“Honestly, I can’t tell if he was really good or really bad without watching the game again,” Gallant said. “He made some big plays and was a big part of the power play, which was good. When you train a game with this intensity, I didn’t focus on individual players.”

Because of me. The Rangers got more out of their big guns. They got more from their team. They needed it. They’ll need more when the series moves to Pittsburgh for the next two games. But the way the blueshirts reacted in this instance and were late to Domingue gives reason to believe.

https://nypost.com/2022/05/06/rangers-top-forwards-come-up-big-in-win-over-penguins/ Rangers’ top forwards make it big as they defeat the Penguins

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