This is certainly new territory for the New York Rangers.
The Rangers had an opportunity to put a stranglehold on the Pittsburgh Penguins, and for once, they took full advantage. Despite a horrendous start in the first period, the Rangers regrouped in between periods, and came back with a much better effort in the final 40 minutes. Not for nothing, but the Rangers were extremely lucky to escape the first period only down by a goal, because they were that bad.
While the Penguins only registered eight shots during the first period, they were certainly more energetic and started feeding off of the home crowd. Using that early momentum to their advantage, the Penguins were able to strike first, and took a 1-0 just 2:22 into regulation. Sidney Crosb'y stuff attempt wound up kicking the puck out to the point, where Ben Lovejoy ripped a hard shot back in on Henrik Lundqist.
Patric Hornqvist was able to get just a slight piece of the puck as it came in, and it was just enough to beat Lundqvist on the glove side. Throughout the previous three games in this series, the Rangers were the ones with the quick starts, but tonight it was the Penguins. For the remainder of the first period, the Rangers struggled to get the puck out of their own zone, and when they did, they were bobbling the outlet passes.
Overall, it was definitely a period to put behind them and that's exactly what they did. The Rangers came out of the intermission with a much better effort, and started dictating the play in the Penguins zone. It took a bit of hard work, but with 2:45 remaining in the period, the Rangers were able to break even. Rick Nash started the entire play by forcing a low shot from the corner that caught Marc-Andre Fleury off guard. As a result, he wasn't able to control the rebound, and the puck flipped around in Derick Brassard's feet.
Brassard was eventually able to locate the puck, and took a few swats at the puck before it finally trickled over the goal line. It wasn't a pretty goal by any means, but in the playoffs it really doesn't matter how you get them, as long as you make them count. With the momentum tilted in their favor, the Rangers carried it over to the third period and went searching for the go ahead goal.
The Rangers certainly had their opportunities late in the game, but they weren't able to beat Fleury who has played very well in this series. Luckily for us, neither team was able to fight the winning goal in regulation, which meant this game had to be settled in overtime. Also another plus for us was that we didn't have to suffer that long waiting for someone to end this game.
Just 3:14 into the extra period, Kevin Hayes chipped home a loose puck off to the side of Fleury, and gave the Rangers a huge 2-1 win in Game 4. I'm not sure if it was just me, but was there anything more satisfying than watching Maxim Lapierre laying in the crease as the puck flew by him for the win? After that little acting job he put on display late in the first period, that was one heck of a way to end the game.
The Rangers have now given themselves an opportunity to close out this series Friday evening at Madison Square Garden. Let's get it done.