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Instant analysis: Rangers vs. Penguins, Game 1

Zatkoff, Pittsburgh's speed too much for New York

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the New York Rangers 5-2 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Consol Energy Center on Wednesday. It featured a backup goalie in each net, a hat trick, a shorthanded goal, and a coach's challenge.

Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff, who is third on their depth chart, made 35 saves in his Stanley Cup Playoff debut. He started in place of the Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion) and rookie Matt Murray (upper body). 

The Penguins stayed hot offensively with right wing Patric Hornqvist leading the way with a hat trick and four points. His second goal was upheld after being challenged for goalie interference. Sidney Crosby scored a breakaway goal and Tom Kuhnhackl's shorthanded goal at 5:31 of the third period was the game-winner.

Video: NYR@PIT, Gm1: Hornqvist jams the puck into the net

Center Derek Stepan scored two goals for the Rangers, who didn't have goalie Henrik Lundqvist after the first period because of a right eye injury. 

Lundqvist was hit in the face by teammate Marc Staal's stick blade with 49 seconds left in the first period. He stayed in the game, gave up the goal to Hornqvist with 31 seconds later, and didn't return to the bench after the first intermission. Antti Raanta played in relief of Lundqvist.

What we learned: Zatkoff isn't a bad option after all, and Pittsburgh's speed will be a factor.

Zatkoff was somewhat of a surprise starter considering Fleury skated three straight days and was in the net typically reserved for the starting goalie at the morning skate.

Video: NYR@PIT, Gm1: Kuhnhackl scores on shorthanded rush

It helped that the Penguins stayed fast and continue to score the way they did at the end of the regular season, when they averaged four goals per game in their final 16.

What this means for the Rangers: Other than being down 1-0 in the best-of-7 series, the Rangers have to hope Lundqvist is OK. He stayed in the game after getting treated with eye drops, but gave up the first goal to Hornqvist and did not return for the second. He didn't even come back on the bench. The Rangers are already playing without defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who has a right hand injury. They can ill afford to lose Lundqvist for any more time too.

What this means for the Penguins: They can feel like they can win without Fleury in net, which is good for their confidence, particularly in Zatkoff. It helps that Crosby got on the score sheet early in the series with a goal and two assists. Crosby had two goals in the five-game series last season, both in Game 2, Pittsburgh's only win. He had three goals in 12 playoff games against the Rangers in the past two years. 

Key moment: Kuhnhackl's shorthanded goal at 5:31 of the third period was the dagger. It put Pittsburgh up 3-1 and it came 2:21 after Rangers center Derek Stepan scored a 5-on-3 power-play goal to make it 2-1. Making it hurt even more for the Rangers is that seconds before the 2-on-1 rush that led to Kuhnhackl's goal, defenseman Dan Boyle had what appeared to be an open look at the net from the left side, but the puck was knocked away from him by Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy.

Unsung player of the game: Penguins forward Connor Sheary was involved all game despite playing a fourth-line role. He was on the ice for each of the Penguins' first two goals and had the primary assist on Hornqvist's goal that made it 1-0 at 19:42 of the first period. He had two shots on goal and a key block of Rangers defenseman Keith Yandle's shot attempt from between the hash marks at 15:45 of the second period. Without that block, Yandle's shot might have tied the game at 1-1. Instead, the Penguins scored a little more than four minutes later on Crosby's breakaway.

What's next: Game 2 is Saturday at Consol Energy Center (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports), and it's anybody's guess who the starting goalies will be. Lundqvist and Fleury have two days to rest and recover. If they can't play, it'll likely be Zatkoff and Raanta in Game 2.

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