How many times can the New York Rangers dig their way out of a hole?As of Friday night, there was at least one more.
The Penguins were without star player Sidney Crosby, who sat out Game 5 after sustaining an upper-body ailment that ESPN’s Emily Kaplan described as a concussion.
In a win-or-go-home game at PPG Paints Arena, the Blueshirts came out lacklustre, but rallied from a two-goal hole for the second straight game. Mika Zibanejad scored the game-winning goal with 1:28 remaining in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series against the Penguins, bringing the series back to Madison Square Garden for Game 7 on Sunday.
The Rangers spent much of the first period pinned in their own zone. Their attempts to clear the puck were futile and lacking purpose, which would often result in the Penguins regaining possession quickly. Eventually, it came back to bite them.
Just 1:36 later, Jake Guentzel found Bryan Rust wide open for a backdoor pass and a one-timer that made it 2-0. Rust nestled into a spot that was vacated by Jacob Trouba, who was the subject of ire from the Pittsburgh crowd throughout the night for his Game 5 hit that resulted in Crosby’s concussion.
You couldn’t blame Igor Shesterkin for the first one. The Vezina and Hart Trophy finalist stopped three consecutive shots on that sequence, but the fourth was a backhanded rebound from Jeff Carter that made it 1-0 at the 14:12 mark.
The hapless start put the Rangers’ season on life support, but much like they did in Game 5, they came roaring out of their slumber in the second period.
Mika Zibanejad has been the subject of criticism throughout this series for his lack of production. His line with Kreider and Frank Vatrano had been outscored, 7-2, entering Friday, with Zibanejad failing to score a goal through the first five games.He looked outmatched in his head-to-head battle with Crosby, but the Game 6 absence of the Penguins’ best player opened things up for No. 93.
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