The New York Rangers definitely set the tone in the opening game of this series, and came away with a huge 3-2 overtime win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Rangers started out the game playing very well in all three zones, and wound up capitalizing twice as a result. However, they allowed the Penguins to claw their way back in the second period, and were forced to dig themselves out of a hole. Henrik Lundqvist deserves a ton of credit in this one as he had his work cut out for him.
The "third" line also deserves a ton of praise as well, as they worked their horses off all game long, and chipped in a pair of goals (twice in overtime, too!). Everyone who watches the sport of hockey knew that the Rangers needed to test Marc-Andre Fleury in this series, and they started it off fairly quickly. Just five minutes in the opening frame, Benoit Pouliot wasted no time tossing a puck on net, and wound up sniping it over the shoulder of Fleury.
Olli Maatta gave Pouliot the inside lane, and he took full advantage of it while ripping a hard, high wrist shot. While it was a terrible read by Maatta, Fleury has to come up with that save, and he whiffed on it completely. Nearing the end of the first, the Rangers capitalized again on a golden opportunity and widened their lead to 2-0. Once again it was Olli Maatta being outworked in the corner by Carl Hagelin, and he quickly dished it off to Richards who was wide open in front. It was yet another defensive miscue by the Penguins in their own end, and once again the puck wound up in the back of their net.
While the Penguins weren't necessarily on top of their game for the first period, the same could be said about the Rangers in the second. The Penguins walked all over the Rangers in the second period, out shot them 18-5, and found a way to knot up the game with a pair of goals. The first one came from Lee Stempniak as he capitalized on a turnover by the Rangers, and flipped it over Lundqvist's blocker to cut the lead to one. Ryan McDonagh failed to back check immediately as he turned the puck over, and was caught back in the offensive zone.
That allowed Beau Bennett to drop a pass back to Stempniak and he walked right up the middle for the goal. Then just a little over eight minutes later, the Penguins tied up the game on a controversial call that worked in favor of the Penguins. James Neal's initial shot wound up bouncing up in the air off of Lundqvist's chest, and it appeared as if Evgeni Malkin knocked it in with a high stick.
They wound up going to the replay where it was ruled that Malkin never touched the puck, but he did in fact impede Lundqvist from making the save. Although, because incidental contact is not a reviewable play, the refs were only allowed to look for a high stick on the play. Had Malkin not speared Lundqvist's glove hand, he likely would have caught the puck, and this game would have probably ended in regulation.
Either way, the Rangers had no time to hang their heads from that call, and went right back to work. Both teams had their fair amount of chances in the third period, but both goalies were up to the task, and we headed to overtime. Luckily for us, the Rangers decided to end the game just three minutes into the extra frame, and walked away with a huge game 1 victory. Funny enough though, the Rangers actually scored TWICE in overtime, so the eventual game winner was awarded to Derick Brassard.
Even though he was officially award an assist on this game, Pouliot deserves full credit for the game winning goal that he set up from the corner. Pouliot wound up forcing Rob Scuerdi into turning over the puck, and quickly fed it out to Brassard who put it just under the bar. The refs initially waived off the goal as it appeared to go off of the cross bar, but just to make sure, Benoit Pouliot put the puck in once more on a feed from Derick Brassard.
In terms of confidence, this is a massive victory for the Rangers, and at the same time, they also take control of home ice in this series. This victory will be short live however, as the Rangers will get right back to work on Sunday night, and then again on Monday.