In the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of the NHL playoffs, the New York Rangers appeared to have stolen the momentum from the Penguins as the series shifts to Pittsburgh for Game 3 on Saturday.
The teams split the first two games in New York, a triple-overtime 4-3 Penguins win in Game 1 on Tuesday, followed by a 5-2 Rangers win Thursday.
After so much disappointment to start the series, New York found a formula in Game 2 that worked.
“We played a simple game, (were) hard on their defense and used our speed to our advantage,” said Rangers forward Frank Vatrano, who had a goal and two assists in the win.
“As the game went on, we wore them down. It’s a long series. We’ve just got to, shift by shift, do that every single night.”
The victory Thursday was New York’s first in the playoffs since May 4, 2017, while Pittsburgh is making its 16th straight postseason appearance.
“Playoff hockey is a different animal,” Vatrano said. “Everyone’s got to step up their game a few percent.”
Rangers coach Gerard Gallant indicated his team still has another level it can reach.
“It’s good to get on the board, but it’s even better when you play a complete game, and we need to play that a little bit better,” Gallant said. “It seems like every time we get some momentum going, we give it back to them, and we can’t keep doing that. We’ve got to play stronger hockey in our (defensive) zone.”
The Rangers have been doing their part on special teams. New York is 2-for-5 on its power play, plus a short-handed goal, while Pittsburgh’s power play is 1-for-6.
In addition, New York has scored first in each of the first two games, and the Penguins have not led at any point outside of Tuesday’s winning goal.
“Our starts are still lacking a bit,” Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said. “We’ve got to find a way to come out of the gates a little better. Hopefully, being at home will do that for us.”
The Penguins also have lacked secondary scoring — their six goals have all come from top-liners Jake Guentzel (three), Crosby and Bryan Rust, along with star second-liner Evgeni Malkin.
“I feel like five-on-five, every line has gotten some quality looks,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “Obviously, when you get scoring throughout your lineup, it helps your cause for sure. It helps you win games.
“But I think these guys are trying to play the game the right way. They’re competing hard out there. They’re trying to get pucks to the net. They’re trying to get to the net.”
Just who the secondary scoring might come from could be tied to who is available to play for Pittsburgh.
The Penguins went into the series without No. 1 goaltender Tristan Jarry and second-line winger Jason Zucker, both with lower-body injuries. Over the first two games, they have lost No. 2 goaltender Casey DeSmith (abdomen), top-pairing defenseman Brian Dumoulin (lower body) and second-line winger Rickard Rakell (upper body).
Zucker practiced Friday and could play.
For the Rangers, Barclay Goodrow (lower body) likely is out for the series, Gallant said, and the status of Ryan Lindgren (lower body) is unclear.
–Field Level Media