There’s a pretty easy explanation for the New York Rangers’ 5-1 win in Game 5 of their Second Round playoff series against the Penguins Friday night at CONSOL Energy Center that forced a Game 6 at Madison Square Garden Sunday night.
The Rangers wanted it more.
Yes, there are a lot of nuances that took place in the game. But the Penguins did not match the desperation level of the Rangers. Plain and simple.
“They came out like a team whose season is on the brink,” defenseman Rob Scuderi said. “And at the start we played like a team that had an automatic bid to the next round.”
Playing with their season on the line, and possibly motivated by their leader Martin St. Louis suiting up just 24 hours after the passing of his mother, the Rangers nearly did everything right to edge the Pens.
“We didn’t start strong enough. It was pretty apparent at the start they were more desperate,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “They were winning battles, winning races and ended up getting the lead.”
The Rangers started the game strong in the first period. They took the attack to the Penguins and had a drastic edge in shots, 17-9. New York managed a total of just 15 shots in Game 4.
“We expected their very best off the hop,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “They came really hard, really aggressive down the walls. We turned over a few pucks as a result that led to their zone time.
“In addition to them playing their hardest and best, we had some unforced errors that gave them their power-play goals and opportunities.”
New York’s power play, which entered the game having tied an NHL record of futility with an 0-for-36 run, went 2-for-3.
Forward Derick Brassard wore the cape, scoring twice and adding an assist for a three-point night, followed by three helpers from Mats Zuccarello.
The Penguins knew the opportunity they had with a 3-1 lead in the series and a chance to advance.
They understood the task at hand.
“Their backs are against the wall and it’s going to be really hard, but’s a heck of an opportunity,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said in the locker room following Game 4. “We’re going home. I think we have to really go after that. If they win a road game and come hone then momentum can start to turn. We have to be all in on Friday night.”
“At 3-1 is the right number for us, but we have to go after this,” Bylsma said this morning. “This should be as desperate for us as we know it’s going to be for them.”
But it was the Rangers that were desperate and went after it.
That isn’t to say the Penguins weren’t trying. Just watch Evgeni Malkin’s goal, where he was 1-on-4, split defensemen Dan Girardi and Marc Staal and scored off his own rebound.
And the Penguins created some momentum following the score.
“We had the next three scoring chances, we had the next four shots,” Bylsma said. “I thought we were pushing right there.“
But the Rangers survived the onslaught and countered with a goal to make it 3-1.
The bottom line is that the Rangers wanted it more and executed better.
The Penguins will have to play better if they want to finish off New York on Sunday night.
“We’ve won (at MSG). We know that,” Bylsma said. “You have to turn the page real quick. We’re getting on a plane (Saturday) and going to the Garden for Game 6. It’s a tough place to play, a tough building and a team that’s playing desperate.
“We have to play that same desperation and we have to do it back there.”