Anatomy of a Comeback: How the Rangers Ousted the Penguins
Trailing, 3-1, after four games in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Broadway Blueshirts looked flat after winning Game 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Rangers needed a spark, better team defense and goaltending.
Newcomer Martin St. Louis provided all the spark the Rangers needed just by showing up. The death of his mother the day before didn’t stop the forward from showing up for a pivotal Game 5.
“I know deep down my mother would have wanted me to play this game,” St. Louis told the media after Game 5. “She’d be proud of me coming here to help as much as I can. … I owed it to her to do it. I know she would want me to do it.”
Marc Staal said, “You want to play hard for a guy like that who’s coming from such a tragedy. You want to rally around it.”
It officially started about midway through the first period of Game 5. The Rangers were on a power play, and Derek Stepan won an offensive zone faceoff. Ryan McDonough had a clear, hard shot from the left point after Chris Kreider dove to tip it to the point, it hit hard off Marc-Andre Fleury right pad and onto the stick of Kreider who scrambled back onto his skates. Kreider buried the puck on a bad-angle wrist shot and the Rangers were up, 1-0.
Derick Brassard, who scored four goals in the series, had two in Game 5. Mats Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot each had a goal in the series, as the second line scored six of the fifteen goals for the Rangers.
Tough Defense, Excellent Goaltending
While 10 different players scored for the Rangers, one name left off the scoresheet for much of the series was Sidney Crosby. The Kid had a goal in Game 3 and two assists in Game 4, but was shutout in every other game, including Game 7.
Alain Vigneault ran his top two defensive pairs — Ryan McDonough-Dan Girardi and Marc Staal-Anton Stralman — for many of Crosby’s shifts. And in Game 7, despite the Penguins having the last change at the whistle because of home ice, the top two pairs were on the ice for 23 of Crosby’s 25 even-strength shifts. The top NHL goal scorer was shut down, especially on the power play.
While the Penguins did have a balanced approach with the man-advantage, the Rangers coaching staff correctly planned for everything to run through Crosby. Because of the scouting, Pittsburgh was 1 for 20 on the power play, a far cry from the success in its previous series (6 for 29) against Columbus.
While Henrik Lundqvist allowed four goals on 27 shots in Game 4, he allowed just three goals on 105 shots in Games 5,6 and 7.
In Game 7, Lundqvist showed everyone why he is The King. With 5:55 left and a bad clear by Staal, Lundqvist fought off Lee Stempniak’s tip off a shot from Matt Niskanen and denied Evgeni Malkin on the doorstep immediately after and froze the puck preserving the Rangers’ 2-1 lead.
The Rangers needed something to rally around being down 3-1. They got that from a tragedy when Marty St. Louis’ mom passed. The spark was not her death but Marty’s response.
To a man, every Ranger stepped up and followed his lead. That was good for game 5 and the opening of game 6. However, the Rangers won the series because of defense and goaltending more than anything else.
Henrik Lundqvist played hero in game 7 and was the bottom line difference in the series. Coupled with the Rangers ability to shut down the game’s best player in Crosby – the anatomy of a comeback is clear cut. Total team effort.
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