Breadman delivers: Artemi Panarin’s OT winner completes Rangers improbable comeback; defeat Penguins in Game 7 to advance

Rangers Penguins Game 7
New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (10) reacts with teammates after scoring the game winning goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during overtime in Game 7 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series Sunday, May 15, 2022, in New York. The Rangers won 4-3 in overtime. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

The comeback kids not only live to fight another day but to fight another series — and it turns out the Breadman not only works nights, but Sundays, too.

Artemi Panarin’s wrist shot on the power play from just above the right circle beat Tristan Jarry glove side at 4:46 of overtime to blow the roof off Madison Square Garden, lifting the New York Rangers to a Game 7, 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

The Blueshirts came all the way back from a 3-1 series deficit to eliminate the Penguins and move on to the Eastern Conference semifinals where they will face the Carolina Hurricanes. And of course, it came in come-from-behind fashion for the team that set a franchise record with 27 comeback wins during the regular season before overturning 2-0 deficits in Games 5 and 6. 

Trailing 3-2 in the third period, Mika Zibanejad’s steal, spin, and snipe into the top left corner of the net with 5:45 to go in regulation tied things up for the Blueshirts, who conceded two second-period Pittsburgh goals on sublime individual efforts from Jake Guentzel and Evan Rodrigues.

After all, they needed something special to beat Rangers netminder Igor Shesterkin, who was as stellar as ever in a 42-save showing. 

He had to be especially sharp early as the Penguins put forth an early flurry of chances on the Rangers net. While they sustained zone time and had four cracks at Shesterkin in succession six minutes in, the New York netminder stood tall.

His early stonewalling immediately led to the Rangers’ opening goal, sparking a 2-on-1 with Chris Kreider and Zibanejad, the latter feeding the former with a listing saucer pass that Kreider roofed on a one-timer 7:36 into the game.

For Kreider, it was his fifth goal of the postseason and his first-ever goal in a Game 7. It was also his 29th career playoff goal, tying him with Mark Messier for second all-time on the Rangers’ franchise postseason list.

The Penguins managed to re-establish momentum after an ARtemi Panarin slashing penalty with 8:55 to go in the period.

While the man advantage didn’t produce much, Pittsburgh’s Marcus Pettersson came within inches of beating Shesterkin moments after the power play expired — ringing a wrister off the post.

Following a scuffle near Shesterkin’s net after Crosby gave the netminder an extra poke with the stick — prompting 4-on-4 play — the Penguins were awarded a 4-on-3 power play for 1:19 with 3:32 left in the first after Jacob Trouba high-sticked Mike Matheson for a double-minor.

The Penguins didn’t record a single shot on goal in the 4-on-3 stage of their power play — the Rangers’ trio of penalty killers keeping Pittsburgh’s stars in Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang to the perimeter without much malice.

With 1:09 to go in the period, though, the Penguins found paydirt after another scramble in front resulted in Danton Heinen swatting the puck over Shesterkin’s pad and barely across the goal line.

The officials on the ice did not rule it a goal initially, playing an extra 26 seconds before the league intervened and stopped play to confirm the goal.

Guentzel put the Penguins ahead with 9:42 to go in the second period off an impressive solo effort, kicking a loose puck in front of the Rangers’ net to himself before batting it out of midair.

The play was reviewed for a high stick, which it did just appear to be, but Toronto deemed it a good goal.

Pittsburgh’s lead lasted all of 65 seconds as K’Andre Miller’s shot from the left point deflected off Pittsburgh defenseman Mike Matheson and in.

The goal made Miller at 22 years, 114 days, the second-youngest Ranger to score a goal in a Game 7 (Michael Del Zotto was the youngest in 2012 conference semis vs. Capitals).

Rodrigues put the Penguins back in front with 2:35 to go with a dazzling solo effort of his own. After forcing a turnover at the Penguins’ blue line and pushing the puck ahead to himself, the winger outraced Miller, held him off while driving to the net, and potted a backhander over Shesterkin.

Following Zibanejad’s equalizer, it was Miller that helped put the Rangers in the driver’s seat in overtime when he drove to the Penguins net and was pulled down by Brock McGinn, giving the Rangers the power-play opportunity it needed to clinch its first playoff series victory since 2017. 

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