Penguins take Game 1
Mike Sullivan’s message before the series started is the Penguins could win no matter who was in net. For one night it proved true.
In a game that was much more lopsided on the scoreboard than the actual play, the Penguins got a hat trick from Patric Hornqvist, timely goals and stellar play from No. 3 goaltender Jeff Zatkoff in a 5-2 over the Rangers to take a 1-0 series lead.
Zatkoff shut the Rangers out through the first 43:09 of the game and was sensational early in the first period when the ice was strongly tilted in the Rangers favor.
“He gave us a chance to win,” Sullivan said of Zatkoff. “I couldn’t be happier for him.”
A particular strong area for Zatkoff was his angles. He was challenging shooters early and was extremely solid blocker side as the Rangers were targeting Zatkoff with shots to his right side.
Zatkoff in fact learned he was starting Tuesday night after receiving a text from Marc Andre Fleury but his teammates didn’t find out until an afternoon meeting following the skate. The Penguins did a great job in fooling everybody, including the Rangers.
“Obviously, we didn’t want to reveal which goalie we were going to play and let our opponent prepare for it,” Sullivan said.
A goaltender who normally has disastrous rebound control, it was another area Zatkoff was much improved and the Rangers were not able to take advantage until a poor rebound led to a Derek Stepan goal in the third period.
The Penguins gave up 37 shots and were vulnerable against the cycle, but a big key in front of Zatkoff was 22 blocked shots and the D boxing out well for the most part.
13 of the Penguins 18 skaters blocked at least one shot.
For the Rangers, they played a particularly strong game and if Henrik Lundqvist doesn’t get hurt, who knows how this game goes.
Everything they’d want was in their favor as the game 5 v 5 was played more at their pace than Pittsburgh’s.
The Rangers out-shot Pittsburgh 37-31 and had a 55-36 edge in shot attempts 5 v 5 that should have screamed a Rangers win with facing Jeff Zatkoff. But, it didn’t.
The Penguins have been so tough to beat over the last six weeks because of their ability to take control of a game when there’s a push from the opposition.
Anytime the Rangers threatened, Pittsburgh would put the puck in the back of the Rangers net.
In an opening period where the Rangers were the stronger team, Patric Hornqvist scored with 17 seconds left in the period to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead.
The team’s look to be playing to a 0-0 draw in period two, Patric Hornqvist blocks a shot and Sidney Crosby jets up the ice to get behind the Rangers D for a breakaway goal with 1:04 left in the second period.
In the third it was the same story.
Rangers cut the lead to 2-1 on the power play and still have over two minutes of power play time left, Tom Kuhnhackl scores a shorthanded goal to put the Penguins up 3-1. Just a back breaking goal.
More so than losing to Jeff Zatkoff, what has to be deflating to the Rangers is just how the Penguins put up 5 goals on them when the pace and tempo of the game was more to the Rangers liking than Pittsburgh’s.
What the Penguins showed the NHL over the last month is what they showed the Rangers tonight is they can burn you in a big way with defensive breakdowns.
Pittsburgh made the Rangers pay for breakdowns, while New York didn’t finish their Grade-A chances. It was the story of the game. The Penguins were able to counter-punch with great success.Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"