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Derick Brassard's OT goal gives Rangers Game 1 win
Just 3:06 into overtime, Derick Brassard saw his rising wrister fly past Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, off the crossbar and in, and he quickly started pointing to the net. He knew he had scored the winner.
But the red light didn't come on, the puck ricocheted out and as play continued, Brassard said, "I kind of stopped skating, but the puck came right to me and I saw Bennie [Benoit Pouliot] in front."
Pouliot, who had scored in the first period, buried Brassard's pass and began celebrating the game-winner in the Rangers' 3-2 victory in Game 1 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals Friday night. A quick review awarded the goal to Brassard.
"It was so quick," Pouliot said of the dramatic and unusual finish to the Rangers' third playoff game in four nights. "You heard the post, then it was a scramble. But Brass made a great shot."
A smiling Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said that Brassard, Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello "had probably been our most consistent line since Christmas. They were strong on the forecheck."
It was the first overtime game for the Rangers in this postseason. The Penguins have now lost three, two against the Blue Jackets in the first round. Henrik Lundqvist made 34 saves, 27 in the second and third periods. Fleury stopped 24.
The Penguins had scored twice in the second period to erase a 2-0 lead that the Blueshirts built in the first on disruptive forechecking and goals from Pouliot and Brad Richards.
The Penguins rebounded in the second, killing three Rangers power plays, sending the Blueshirts' futility mark to 25 straight stretching through Game 3 of the Flyers series.
Lee Stempniak, trailing a rush, took a pass from Beau Bennett, took a couple of strides and slid a low backhander past a sliding Mats Zuccarello and Lundqvist at 7:15 to cut the Rangers' lead to 2-1. Then came a disputed goal.
With 6:32 left in the second, Lundqvist blocked James Neal's shot, which popped high above him. Evgeni Malkin's stick hit Lundqvist's arm while he was reaching, and the puck dropped behind him and rolled in. After a review, the officials ruled that Malkin never touched the puck, and when he saw the replay, Lundqvist agreed that it was a good goal.
"We can control what we can control," said Dan Girardi, who had two assists. "You saw that in the first and third. The second we kind of sat back and watched."
The Rangers didn't exhibit any signs of fatigue in the first, but the power play continued to struggle mightily, overpassing and unable to set up smoothly and going 0-for-4 through 40 minutes. Somehow they overcame that, and also managed to prevent Sidney Crosby from scoring.
Pouliot's third goal of the playoffs came at 5:04 to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. He picked up Girardi's pass near the Rangers blue line, skated up ice on a three-on-two, crossed to the deep slot and fired under Fleury's right arm.
Carl Hagelin won a battle at the end boards and Matt Niskanen lost track of Richards in front. Richards corralled Hagelin's pass on his backhand, had time to move to his forehand and beat Fleury for a 2-0 lead at 17:03.
Lundqvist held the fort in the third, and Brassard's line, which had scored eight goals in four games against the Penguins this season, came up huge again.
"I didn't know that stat," Brassard said. "We just want to bring some offense to the team."