Derick Brassard lifts Rangers past Penguins in OT
May 3, 2014 § Leave a comment
Hockey has always been a game that requires impressive skill to play and opponent mistakes to win.
That notion will certainly be in play in the New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins Eastern Conference semifinal based on what we witnessed in Game 1.
In a series that includes two of the world’s best players in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and arguably the planet’s best goalkeeper in Henrik Lundqvist, it is the teams’ flaws that made the game interesting.
It’s not going to be the team that makes the most exciting plays that is going to win. It’s going to be the team that commits the fewest number of mistakes that will win this series.
That was certainly evident in Game 1 when the Rangers won a 3-2 decision on a goal by Derick Brassard at 3:06 of overtime.
“It’s huge when you win the first game because it puts a lot of pressure on the other team,” Brassard said.
A momentary defensive lapse in overtime and the Rangers had time to score two tying goals. Unsure whether Brassard’s shot went in, officials let the play continue and Benoit Pouliot put the puck into the net again.
Brassard scored the real goal, and assisted on the goal that didn’t count. You have to wonder whether that has happened before.
For further evidence of how tight this series may be, consider that Lee Stempniak almost scored a game-winner for Pittsburgh in the closing seconds of regulation.
“I don’t know where that puck went,” Lundqvist said. “For a second, I thought he beat me five hole.”
This was a game in which the Rangers controlled the first period, the Penguins dominated the second period and the third period was evenly played.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault described it as the Rangers playing a “solid, fundamental period” and the Penguins taking it “to another level in the second period.”
“It was good for us just to get into the third period with a tie game,” said Lundqvist
Lundqvist seemed to be proud that his teammates pulled their game together after the Penguins’ dominance in the second period. This is a Rangers team that now has played four playoff games in six nights.
Nobody in the Rangers’ dressing room is pondering the fatigue factor.
“If we are on our game, I think we are pretty hard to handle,” Brassard said.
This might be how the entire series goes, a roller coaster ride for fans from both teams, because Crosby isn’t the dominant player that he normally is.
He has now gone seven games without a goal in the postseason, and there has been plenty of guesswork and speculation about whether he might be suffering from a nagging injury that is preventing him from being at his best.
He certainly doesn’t look like the player who registered 104 points this season when no one else even managed 90. He was minus 3 with three shots on goal in the game.
Even if Crosby isn’t hurt, the Rangers’ shot-blocking is strong enough to minimize the damage the Penguins stars can do. If neither Malkin nor Crosby can take over this series, it will be a goaltending series.
That would be considered an advantage for the Rangers, but Fleury made some crucial stops after giving up the one deflection goal that he would like to have back. He seemed to have time to adjust. Lundqvist gave up one goal (by James Neal) that he would like to re-do as well.
In the battle of the fewest mistakes, Fleury probably has more margin for error than Lundqvist. The Rangers probably need Lundqvist to be near a 2.00 goals-against average and .935 save percentage to win this series. The Rangers need Lundqvist to be a difference-maker to beat the Penguins. He was in Game 1, making 34 saves. He was above that standard in Game 1.
“In the end, we made a couple of mistakes,” Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said.
Fleury’s numbers won’t have to match Lundqvist’s numbers to beat the Rangers. He was good enough to give the Penguins a chance to win, if they hadn’t made a couple of mistakes at the wrong time.
The Penguins do not need Fleury to win the series for them. They probably just need him not to lose in this series where the fewest mistakes win.