Rangers fend off adversity, beat Pittsburgh 5-2
On the second leg of a back-to-back, with their back up in net, playing the defending champs on their home ice.
The Rangers were facing an uphill battle after falling behind 2-0 on the scoreboard and being outplayed handily. Then came the second period, the Rangers’ bread and butter as we head towards the quarter mark in the 2016-17 season. Did I mention that they were missing a top-line center, with players filling new roles for the first time this season? A hell of a night for the Blueshirts. Let’s run through some final thoughts:
– Credit to Antti Raanta (now 5-0 this season) after giving up a shoddy goal just a few minutes in. Raanta made 29 saves on 31 SOG and was a calming force in the second half of the first period, when if not for Raanta, things could’ve spiraled out of control easily. Raanta was named the game’s first star, rightly so.
The Young Star
– Kevin Hayes will be the main cog in filling the void left behind by Mika Zibanejad (knee, out 6-8 weeks). He was rockstar-good tonight and will need to be moving forward. Hayes finished with a goal and an assist and lead all forwards in ice-time. His short-handed assist was the game’s defining moment.
Defending the Lead
– The Rangers did indeed go into a “trap” structure to open the third period, up one goal. They executed it extremely well, and out shot the Pens 5-0 to start despite opening the period on the PK. They made it difficult for Pittsburgh to enter the offensive zone with possession and had a couple of goals in transition to boot.
– The Rangers’ transition game has been second to none this season. On MSG post-game, Steve Valiquette noted the following: NYR have 23 2 on 1 odd man rush’s this season, opponents have had just seven 2 on 1’s.
– Ryan McDonagh’s effort on Michael Grabner’s power-play goal was otherworldly. He pinched at the blue line, knocking a fluttering puck away from the danger area and followed the play into the corner where he pushed it over to the net-front. All the result of crashing in from the point and seizing an opportunity to get back a goal. That’s what separates elite defenseman from good defenseman.
Crosby and Malkin..so what
– Derek Stepan and Kevin Hayes went up against two of the top five centers in the world, head to head, and were far and away the better duo. They outplayed Crosby and Malkin and the Rangers reaped the rewards.
– The Rangers now come home to finish out the home-and-home series with the Pens. It’s gonna be nasty, and fun. Tonight they proved that they’re never out of a game, even with the chips stacked against them.