You had a rookie goaltender in Matt Murray holding down the fort during a strong early push from the Rangers – at 21 years and 335 days, he became the fifth-youngest goalie in the last 28 years to close out a series, per Elias Sports Bureau – and then it was other new faces in Bryan Rust (with two), Conor Sheary and veteran Matt Cullen accounting for the four second-period goals that broke open the game.
Henrik Lundqvist can only do so much without any sort of support, and once again, we saw just how much better the Penguins were than the Rangers this afternoon. The game was essentially over at that point, but the Penguins continued imposing their will on the Rangers.”Geno wants to win”, Sullivan said. When Pittsburgh gets a power play, they all get sent out together along with an elite defenceman (Kris Letang) and a player capable of creating space for everyone (Patric Hornqvist).With any playoff series, a lot of it comes down to the goalies and with the start Murray has had, the Penguins can play with a little more confidence knowing they have a solid presence in net. Pittsburgh, which leads the best-of-7 series 3-1, tied the game on Carl Hagelin’s goal at 9:50.
Murray prefers to remain in the moment, one the Penguins envisioned would come one day for Murray, just perhaps not so soon. The Rangers were able to get one final goal at the 5:38 mark of the third period, as Chris Kreider deflected Raphael Diaz’s shot in from the right point.
Two years ago, the Rangers rebounded from a 3-1 deficit against the Penguins for a second-round win that set the stage for a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
When you add that to the fact the Penguins’ star players all produced offence during this series you can begin to understand why hopes are on the rise here. Pittsburgh’s defense also shut them down and limited to them to very few opportunities during the period.
That made the second Stanley Cup playoff start of Matt Murray’s career a touch easier, and he ended up posting a 31-save shutout. But the Penguins weren’t done yet.
Being backed by Henrik Lundqvist always gives them this opportunity, but the Rangers need to start playing the physical game we had seen in Game 3, find a way to get second-chance opportunities like we saw in Game 2, and ultimately, play with the kind of desperation we have seen in playoffs past.
The goalie change amounted to sparing Lundqvist from giving up any more goals.
Henrik Lundqvist wound up sitting out the third period, and rightfully so, with Antti Raanta finishing out the remainder of the Rangers season in between the pipes. Pittsburgh eased off on the offensive pressure and focused more on shutting the game down. Brad Richards scored the game-winning goal on an assist from St. Louis as the Rangers took the game 2-1. While Murray admitted to nerves, he approached his job with same wiry athleticism that has carried him from the junior ranks to the game’s biggest stage in barely two years. And he did just that.
The Penguins will move on to the Eastern Conference semifinals against the victor of the Philadelphia Flyers-Washington Capitals series.