It took three overtime periods to decide a winner, but in the end, Game 1 between the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins went to the visitors.
Evgeni Malkin deflected a shot from the point 5:58 into overtime to clinch the series opener over the Rangers, 4-3. Pittsburgh dug the puck out from behind the Rangers’ net and eventually moved the puck out to the point for John Marino.
The shot just caught the stick of Malkin and went by New York Rangers Starter Igor Shesterkin, who had put on an impressive 79 save performance in his first Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance. The Loss put the Rangers behind in their first-round series with the Penguins 0-1.
“Great game. Great game by two teams,” New York head coach Gerard Gallant said. “Thought the first 25 minutes we were real good and dominated that part of the game. Then they came back in the second and they played really well after that too. It’s one of those games and obviously three overtime periods, it’s tough to lose like that, but you get back on the horse and get ready for the next game.”
Tuesday’s three-overtime epic market the first time since the 2012 playoffs that the Blue Shirts went three extra periods to decide a winner. They defeated the Washington Capitals that season 3-2 in triple OT in Game 3 of the second round.
It also marked the first triple-overtime game at Madison Square Garden, which had been hosting its first NHL postseason game in five years on Tuesday, since April 29, 1971.
“I thought we battled hard, we did a lot of good things. Obviously, in triple overtime anything can happen,” Ryan Strome said. “They got the first one, but I think we’re pretty confident going into game 2. It will be a fun one.”
Shesterkin stood tall in the face of one of the most challenging games he’s had in his young NHL career. The 79 save effort set a new franchise record as well as put him among a shortlist of players to record such a high number of saves.
He became just the eighth goaltender in NHL history to make 65-plus saves in a playoff game and surpassed Gump Worsley for the franchise record for most saves in a playoff game.
“I mean he made like 80 saves or whatever it was, so obviously he was good,” Strome said of Shesterkin. “I mean he’s done it all year. He’s our best player and he showed it tonight. He made everything he had to do and we couldn’t get one for him.”
The New York Rangers opened the scoring 20 seconds into their first power play of the game. Fox fired a shot from the point that found its way through traffic and past Pittsburgh Penguins starter Casey DeSmith. The goal was Fox’s first career playoff goal and continued the Rangers’ success on the man-advantage from the regular season.
New York gave themselves a 2-0 advantage 3:08 into the second period when Copp finished off a feed from Ryan Strome. The Pittsburgh Penguins answered back less than two minutes later when Jake Guentzel scored on the doorstep.
Sidney Crosby made a pretty cross-ice pass to Guentzel, who tapped the puck under the leg of Shesterkin to cut the Rangers’ lead to just one.
The pair teamed up again at the 11:47 mark of the period to tie the game at two when Crosby again made a stellar pass up the ice to Guentzel, who buried the breakaway past the glove of Shesterkin.
The Rangers regained the lead late in the middle frame when Kreider and Zibanejad combined to score an impressive shorthanded goal. The Blue Shirts were able to win a faceoff in their end and Zibanejad came charging out of the zone and into the Penguins’ end.
He was able to move the puck over to Kreider, who backhanded the puck past DeSmith. The goal sent the Garden into a frenzy.
However, the excitement was short-lived after the Rangers were booked for an interference call on Jacob Trouba, setting up Pittsburgh for a five-on-three advantage. The Penguins made quick work of the advantage by executing a precise passing play that ended with Rust scoring from the side of the net.
It looked as though the Rangers had taken a lead late when Kaapo Kakko drove to the net and got tangled up with DeSmith, but was able to move the puck over to Filip Chytil. The Blue Shirt youngster was able to put the puck into the open net. However, the play was challenged and eventually overturned after it was ruled that the Pittsburgh goaltender had been interfered with.
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The already physical affair took an even chippier tone late in the first period when Ryan Lindgren laid a heavy hit on Rickard Rakell that sent him to the ice. The hit led to a scrum breaking out and eventually the officials called Lindgren for a five-minute major.
After the refs looked at the play, it was downgraded to a roughing penalty. Rakell did not return for the rest of the game.
The New York Rangers suffered a possible injury of their own with Lingren, who was in and out of the game. Gallant said he was lower body and hoped to have more information on Wednesday.