PITTSBURGH (AFP) – Chris Kreider doesn’t believe in living in the past. There is just the next play for the New York Rangers star.
That’s why Kreider threw Micah Zipanegad’s iPad to the floor in frustration after Zipanjad was involved in a breakup during the second half against Louis Domingu of Pittsburgh on Friday night that ended with Zipanjad hitting the post.
Kreider asked Zibani Nejad to stop speculating on himself. It was a good move. He did not go in. It happens. Just keep playing.
So did Zibanjad. Crider too. Thanks to their strength, the steadfast Rangers return home for Game Seven.
The two longtime teammates scored two goals each – including Kreider blasting off a point that hit Domingue high then sailing over the goalkeeper’s head and rolling into the net with 1:28 remaining to lift Rangers to a 5-3 win over Sidney Crosby – fewer than The Penguins to push the exciting first round qualifying series to the limit.
“No matter what the situation is, I’m proud of the way this team is competing,” Kreider said. “Whether we’re frustrated, whether we’re awake, trying to get to our game, trying to play the same way.”
As they have repeatedly done during this upside-down streak, Rangers have recovered from a multi-goal deficit and will host Game 7 on Sunday at Madison Square Garden with some serious momentum.
“We fought after (we were left behind) and that showed some character in our group,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said.
A group looking to advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2017. New York will get a chance thanks to play by Kreider and Zipanegad, four assists from Adam Fox and 31 assists from Igor Shesterkin, who bounced off two shaky displays at the PPG Paints Arena earlier in the series to silence the cheers.” IIIIGOOORRRR” which rained on him a lot.
He fights, that’s what he does,” Kreider said of Chesterkin, the finalist for Colleges Visina and Hart. “He was our best player all year and he’s still our best player.”
By contrast, Pittsburgh’s top player has had to watch his team let an opportunity for progress slip away. The Penguins played without Crosby, who suffers an upper body injury that has forced the captain to miss his first playoff game in five years.
For long periods, it looked as if Pittsburgh would find a way forward with even Crosby’s familiar No. 87 out of the lineup. Brian Rost and Jeff Carter scored during the first period to lead the Penguins to a 2-0 lead and Evgeny Malkin broke up late in the second half in the game at 3 after Rangers took the lead.
In the end, it doesn’t matter. Shesterkin held steady in the third half and Dominguez – playing hard if not spectacular while including injured starters Tristan Garry and Casey Desmith – allowed his first truly easy goal in the playoffs when Kreider’s relatively harmless shot from the point hit the goalkeeper’s glove. Then he fluttered behind him.
“No one said it was going to be easy,” said Pittsburgh defender Chris Letang. “They are a really good team. They have a lot of skilled players who can score goals. It’s a four-player race and we have to regroup, stay positive and get the job done.”
Special teams issues
The Penguins were in control early in the second half when striker Evan Rodriguez was handed a penalty for roughness following an exception for a hit along the boards by Ryan Lindgren of New York.
It took Zibanegad every 5 seconds to score with the man’s advantage to provide Rangers the needed jolt and give them their first post-season goal. Zipanjad’s second came later in a 1:16 ratio with another laser, this one from the right circle.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan reprimanded Rodriguez for failing to control his emotions.
“This is a necessary part of winning at this time of year,” Sullivan said.
This is what it’s like to score when you’re 5-on-3. The Penguins failed to do so early in Game Five in New York. They failed to do it again on Friday, producing little despite getting 1:07 with a two man advantage. Pittsburgh went 0 against 3 in strong play of the night while the Rangers went 2 against 3.
“I think I might have made the obvious, but the specials were the difference,” Sullivan said. “We have to be better.”
Game 7 Uncertainty
Crosby skated early Friday morning with his Pittsburgh and Ty Hennis snowboarding instructor, but he wasn’t part of the optional Penguins skating. His status for Sunday is unknown.
Gary, who has been out since mid-April with a broken foot, took shots while skiing but was pushed back again. Penguins striker Rikard Raquel missed his fifth game in a row after receiving a heavy blow in the opening match. Pittsburgh lost veteran striker Brian Boyle in the first period. Sullivan said Boyle’s lower body injury is being evaluated.
Predicting the future?
Gallant said before the start of the playoffs that the only time ice on home soil would matter in the post-season was Game 7.
“I hope I’m right,” Gallant said. “We played really well in our building. Like I said, it’s game 7. The winner goes on. The loser goes home. So I think it’s going to be a great match.”
By the way, the Penguin was not defeated all the time (6-0) when playing Game 7 on the road.