The Pittsburgh Penguins opened up round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 5-2 win on the strength of a Patric Hornqvist Hat Trick and a stellar, surprising start for goalie Jeff Zatkoff on Wednesday night at Consol Energy Center.
Coach Mike Sullivan told media prior to the game that the goalie would be a “game-time decision,” but Zatkoff received the nod and registered 35 saves on 37 shots for his first career playoff win in as many tries.
After Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist took an errant stick in the eye by defenseman Marc Staal, he remained in the game to finish the period. However, the Penguins started the scoring at 19:42 with Hornqvist’s first tally of the evening.
Lundqvist left the game after the period and was replaced by backup Antti Raanta.
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In the second period, the Rangers were pouring on the pressure, but the Penguins struck at 18:42 with a breakaway goal by Sidney Crosby top-left corner to increase the lead to two goals.
Pittsburgh ran into penalty trouble early in the third period when Carl Hagelin and Ian Cole were simultaneously penalized for high-sticking (double minor) and interference, respectively. It led to a Ranger two-man advantage for two minutes.
Just over a minute later, the Rangers cut the lead in half when Derek Stepan slammed the puck into the open six-by-four. Cole was released from captivity, and the Broadway Blueshirts had a 2:58 power play remaining.
The Penguin penalty kill, however, provided a little extra misery with a shorthanded goal by Tom Kuhnhackl in the latter stages of the Hagelin double minor. Fellow penalty killer Nick Bonino fed Kuhnhackl with a no-look feed on a two-on-one and the latter beat Raanta low glove side to make it 3-1.
Hornqvist recorded his second goal of the game on the power play to make the game 4-1. Crosby’s shot was going wide, but it bounced off Kessel, trickled behind Raanta, and Hornqvist pounced on the loose biscuit.
After Stepan notched his second of the game at 10:11 to make the game 4-2, Hornqvist completed the hat trick with an empty-net goal at 17:10 of the third period.
Game two will be on Saturday at 3:00 on NBC and ROOT.
According to New York Rangers Head Coach Alain Vigneault, Lundqvist will be evaluated tomorrow and is considered day-to-day.
The Score was Misleading
Despite tagging the Rangers for five goals, the Rangers deserved a better fate in tonight’s game. They were the better team, outside of the score, for 40 minutes of the game. The third period unraveled on the Rangers, and the Penguins cashed in on their miscues.
Rangers Missed Chances
The Rangers did not cash in on a lengthy five-on-four power play on Hagelin’s penalty, and they failed on chances throughout the game. The difference of the game was the Penguins’ conversions on chances presented to them.
The Penguins did a good job sealing game one of the two-game home stand in front of their home fans. However, they need to win game two to force New York’s hand in their ow barn. Madison Square Garden is a hostile place to play, and if the Rangers steal game two, then the Penguins have to battle through the fans and a Ranger team who has been very good on home ice in the regular season.