The Pittsburgh Penguins came out flat against a team playing their third game in 4 nights, and by the time they started playing against the New York Rangers, it was too late. Although they tied it up, the Penguins could only force overtime and it was Derick Brassard who chipped one over the shoulder of Marc-Andre Fleury to draw first blood in the series.
Benoit Pouliot opened the scoring just past the 5 minute mark when he picked up a loose puck in his own end and carried the puck through the neutral zone with speed, backing the Penguins defensemen up. He cut to the middle and fired a wrist shot top shelf past Fleury, a goal that you normally would like your goalie to make. The Rangers doubled the lead before the period was out, with Carl Hagelin forcing a turnover behind the net, and finding Brad Richards all alone in front. A quick backhand-forehand move got Fleury out of position and Richards slid it home.
Pittsburgh came out in the second with a much better effort, but the wall that is Henrik Lundqvist was a problem. The Penguins did get even on a nice backhand by Lee Stempniak and then a fortunate bounce on a shot by James Neal that Lundqvist stopped but it bounced over his shoulder and into the net.
Lundqvist was the difference in the third as the Penguins took the play to the New York Rangers, outshooting them 12-8 (and 27-12 over the final 40 minutes of regulation), but couldn’t find the go-ahead goal.
The OT period saw a scramble where Pouliot stole the puck in the Penguins corner and found Brassard all alone in front. His wrist shot found the bar inside the net in the corner and came right back out and was initially waved off, but the puck ended up back on his stick and he found Pouliot in the slot and he put it home for extra measure. However, for you poolies out there Brassard did get credit for the goal after review.
More importantly the Rangers take a 1-0 series lead before the teams play back to back games Sunday and Monday evenings. It will be the Rangers 5th and 6th games in 8 days, almost unheard of in the playoffs.
Sidney Crosby was -3 and is still looking for his first goal of the playoffs. Even when Crosby isn’t scoring, he usually does the little things right, but a couple of the New York Rangers’ goals were a direct result of lack of hustle from Crosby in his own end. That has to change if the Penguins are going to get home ice advantage back.