The Penguins scored four goals in the 2nd period to break open a tie game, and went on to beat the Rangers, 6-3, Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh, ending New York’s season. The Penguins won the 1st Round playoff series, 4 games to 1, and move on to face the winner of the Washington-Philadelphia series.
Brian Rust had two goals and an assist in that 2nd period to spark the Penguins, as five different players scored for Pittsburgh in the game. Backup Penguins goalie Matt Murray made 38 saves in the win.
It was the Blueshirts’ earliest exit from the playoffs since the 2010-11 season.
After splitting the first two games of this series with Pittsburgh, the final three games were about as bad a three-game stretch as the Rangers played all season. In the Game 3 loss at The Garden, the Rangers mustered a season-low 17 shots on goal. The 5-0 loss in Game 4 at The Garden was the most lopsided loss of the season, a long, depressing slog in front of the home fans. Arguably the low-water mark of the season. And Saturday’s season-ending Game 5 loss was a slow, painful way to finish.
The Rangers started the game with more hustle, heart, and energy than in Games 3 and 4, and, as a result, 62 seconds into the 1st period, they took a 1-0 lead. Rick Nash deflected Dan Girardi’s slapshot from the blue line past Murray for his 2nd goal of the series. It was the first time in the series that the Blueshirts had scored a goal in the 1st period.
Then came a frenetic two-minute stretch midway through the 1st period that saw the teams score three goals. Pittsburgh tied the game at 9:50 when former Ranger Carl Hagelin passed the puck behind the net to Phil Kessel. Kessel’s return pass was redirected in by Hagelin for a goal and a 1-1 tie.
45 seconds later, the Rangers regained the lead. Jesper Fast‘s shot hit the post and was deflected into the goal off the skate of a Pittsburgh player, but the goal was credited to Dominic Moore, at 10:35, that made the score 2-1.
Kessel evened the game up with a power play goal just over a minute later. His wrist shot deflected off the shaft of Henrik Lundqvist‘s stick and into the net for a goal at 11:39 that made it 2-2. The Penguins scored power play goals in all five games of the series.
Then came the 2nd period, as disastrous a 20-minute period as the Rangers had all season. The Penguins scored four goals to take a soul-crushing 6-2 lead. Rust scored twice, and Matt Cullen and Conor Sheary added goals.
Antti Raanta replaced Lundqvist to start the 3rd period. It was the 10th time this season that Lundqvist was pulled from a game. He gave up 15 goals in the series.
In the 3rd, Chris Kreider deflected a Raphael Diaz shot past Murray at 5:38 for a power play goal that made it 6-3.
The team has numerous decisions to make in the off-season, and the quest for another Stanley Cup will start again in October.