Rangers force Game 6 after beating Penguins, Crosby exits with injury

Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin attempts to steal the puck from Rangers center Andrew Copp.
Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin attempts to steal the puck from Rangers center Andrew Copp.
Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers will live to fight another day.

Facing elimination from the playoffs, the Blue Shirts beat the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night by a 5–3 margin in a nail-biter Game 5.

The crucial win brings the opening Stanley Cup Playoff series to 3–2 in favor of the Penguins, with the two teams traveling back to Pittsburgh for another win-or-go-home contest for New York on Friday. 

Heading into the matchup at Madison Square Garden, hopes for a deep playoff run for the Blue Shirts were grim, as their divisional rival Penguins had outmatched the team for much of the first 4 games.

Head coach Gerard Gallant made the controversial decision to stick with his star goalie Igor Shesterkin, who is likely to win the Vezina Trophy this year, but who has struggled in the playoffs. The star netminder was pulled from Game 3 after giving up 4 goals in the 1st period, and then again in Game 4 after allowing the Penguins to find the back of the net 6 times in 2 periods. 

Despite that, Gallant stood with Shesterkin, and he rewarded the team with 32 saves and just 3 goals allowed in the winning effort.

Meanwhile, on offense, the Rangers came back from a 2 goal deficit after surrendering goals to Jake Guentzel in the 1st period and an early 2nd period score to Kris Letang. 

Adam Fox reached the scoreboard first for the Blue Shirts on a wrist shot from just beyond the blue line 15 minutes in the period. 

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The Rangers then continued building an offensive onslaught throughout the second period with 2 more goals — an Alexis Lafreniere one-timer from Artemi Panarin, and a Jacob Trouba backhander in front of the net through significant traffic to bring the Rangers lead to 2–3 with 2:07 remaining in the period.

The shoot-out continued, though, when Penguins left winger Jake Guentzel would even the game on an assist from Evgeni Malkin with just under 2 minutes remaining in the second to tie the game. 

Meanwhile in the 2nd period, Penguins star Sydney Crosby, one of the best offense man in the NHL, exited the game with an apparent head injury after sustaining a hard hit from Jacob Trouba. 

That injury severely diminished the Penguins’ offensive attack, and helped the Rangers defense hold up for the entire 3rd period, where Pittsburgh failed to find the net. 

The star forward’s injury is “being evaluated,” according to Pittsburg head coach Mike Sullivan. 

After the game, the coach indicated that he thought the hit was unwarranted, as Crosby had been off-balance, and looking away from Trouba.

“Did you see [the hit]?” Sullivan asked. “You probably have the same opinion I do.” 

With just 20 minutes remaining, and their season on the line, the Blue Shirts, on the other hand, came up clutch in the final period — beginning with a Filip Chytil wrist shot from the right face-off circle after securing the puck from a scrum near the blue line. 

That crucial score to retake the lead marked the first playoff goal of the 22-year-old’s NHL career. 

Ryan Lindgren capped off the game with a goal on the Penguins’ empty net with 16 seconds remaining in the contest, as the rowdy MSG crowd breathed a deep sigh of relief. 

New York entered the playoffs as the 2nd seed in the Metropolitan Division with 110 points, while the Penguins fell to third with 103 points. The next game on Friday at PPG Paints Arena in Pennsylvania will see a 7 p.m. eastern time puck drop.

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