It’ll be easy to forget given the final score and all the hoopla over clinching a playoff series at home, but Game 5 between the Penguins and Rangers was a close game for a good long while this afternoon.
In the first 10 minutes of the first period, the Rangers came out flying. They scored two first-period goals. They were outshooting the Penguins 9-2 at one point.
The Penguins stayed in the game, in my estimation, for two main reasons.
1. Matt Murray. He easily could have been rattled by a pair of funky breaks that led to the first two Rangers goals. The first was a Dan Girardi point shot that deflected at least twice. The second was a pinballing puck around the crease that went in off the skates of Patric Hornqvist and Dominic Moore. But he wasn’t. Because that’s sort of his thing.
2. Phil Kessel. On the Penguins’ first goal, he threaded a pass through Kevin Klein to Carl Hagelin on the doorstep. Klein was dropping to a knee and laying his stick on the ice at the time. Heck of a pass. A few minutes later, on the power play, he ripped a patented Kessel wrister in off the knob of Henrik Lundqvist’s stick.
Rob Rossi has a whole column on the topic online and in the paper tomorrow, so I suggest you check that out. I just wanted to throw in my two cents and say that Kessel is, as unlikely as it sometimes seems, a bona fide playoff guy.
Some other notes from today:
— When it comes to Corsi, the Penguins were at a significant disadvantage in most of the series. I tallied it up and I had the Rangers with a 54.8 Corsi for percentage and the Penguins with a 45.2 at even strength in the series.
I think I understand why that is. For one thing, it speaks to the score effect. The Rangers trailed by a lot in large portions of Games 4 and 5. For another, the Penguins so dominated on the power play (8 for 21 compared to 2 for 19 for the Rangers) that five-on-five possession wasn’t as critical. Finally, I looked at some xG stats and saw the Penguins had a lot more dangerous scoring chances than the Rangers did.
I think the bottom line is that it was a series that couldn’t be defined by simple Corsi For stats, and I’m OK with that.
— A four-goal surge in the second period won the game for the Penguins and got the Consol Energy Center crowd riled up.
Bryan Rust had an amazing period. The two goals he scored were important, obviously, but a lot of credit goes to Trevor Daley and Evgeni Malkin for setting them up. The play that really impressed me was his assist. He ran down a long bouncing pass and backed off two Rangers defenders in the process, giving the trailing Matt Cullen all the time and space in the world to get a shot off.
— The Conor Sheary goal, set up by a stickhandling clinic and pass from Sidney Crosby, was the dagger. Who is this kid confidently beating The King with wrist shots two games in a row? And now it’s 5-2? Game over.
— There was a symbolic moment during the second period as well. Just as Dominic Moore released a breakout pass from the Rangers zone, Crosby finished a check on him, sending him sprawling to the ice. Moore has always given the Penguins problems. The Rangers, obviously, have too over the last two seasons.
That Crosby hit showed, metaphorically, that the Penguins are done with the Rangers hurdle and they’re on to the next one in Washington or Philadelphia.
I expect the Penguins will resume practice Monday in preparation for the start of the second round at the end of the week. So check back for the next blog update then.
Bye for now,