PITTSBURGH — Chris Kreider doesn’t believe in dwelling on the past. There’s only the next game for the New York Rangers star forward.
That’s why Kreider threw teammate Mika Zibanejad’s iPad to the ground in frustration after Zibanejad simmered a breakaway during the second period against Pittsburgh’s Louie Domingue on Friday night that ended with Zibanejad hitting the post.
Kreider told Zibanejad to stop questioning himself. It was a good decision. It didn’t come in. It happens. Just keep playing.
This is what Zibanejad did. Kreider too. And thanks to their relentlessness, the resilient Rangers head home for Game 7.
The two longtime teammates scored two goals each – including Kreider’s blast from the point that hit Domingue high then sailed over the goalkeeper’s head and rolled into the net with 1:28 remaining for carry Rangers to a 5-3 win over Sidney Crosby- minus Penguins to push their thrilling first-round playoff streak to the limit.
“Regardless of the situation, I’m proud of how this team competes,” Kreider said. “Whether we’re down or up, we’re trying to hit our level, trying to play the same.”
As they have done many times throughout this upside-down series, the Rangers have rebounded from a multi-goal deficit and will host Game 7 on Sunday at Madison Square Garden with serious momentum.
“We fought back after falling behind and it showed character in our group,” said Rangers coach Gerard Gallant.
A group looking to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2017. New York will get their chance thanks to play from Kreider and Zibanejad, four assists from Adam Fox and 31 saves from Igor Shesterkin, who rebounded after two shaky performances at PPG. Paints Arena earlier in the series to silence the chants of “IIIIGOOORRRR” that frequently rained down on him.
“He fights, that’s what he does,” Kreider said of Vezina and Hart Trophy finalist Shesterkin. “He’s been our best player all year and he continues to be our best player.”
Pittsburgh’s best player, on the other hand, was forced to watch his team pass up a chance to advance from afar. The Penguins played without Crosby, who is suffering from an upper-body injury that forced the captain to miss his first playoff game in five years.
For long stretches, it looked like Pittsburgh would find a way to move on even with Crosby’s familiar No. 87 out of the lineup. Bryan Rust and Jeff Carter scored in the first period to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead and Evgeni Malkin’s fumble late in the second tied the game at 3 after Rangers took the lead. fronts.
In the end, it didn’t matter. Shesterkin held on in the third period and Domingue – who played solidly if not spectacularly while replacing injured starters Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith – let his first really sweet goal of the playoffs pass when Kreider’s relatively innocuous shot hit the goalkeeper’s glove. then fluttered behind him.
“Nobody said it would be easy,” Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang said. “They’re a very good team. They have a lot of talented players who can score goals. It’s a four-man race and we have to regroup, stay positive and get the job done.”
SPECIAL TEAMS PROBLEMS
The Penguins were in control early in the second period when forward Evan Rodrigues was assessed a roughing penalty after denying a hit along the boards by New York’s Ryan Lindgren.
It took Zibanejad all 5 seconds to score with the man advantage to give Rangers a much needed jolt and give him his first playoff goal. Zibanejad’s second came just 1:16 later on another laser, this one from the right circle.
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan berated Rodrigues for not controlling his emotions.
“It’s a necessary part to win at this time of year,” Sullivan said.
The same goes for scoring when you’re on a 5-on-3. The Penguins failed to do that early in Game 5 in New York. They failed to do so again on Friday, generating little despite going 1:07 with the two-man advantage. Pittsburgh went 0 for 3 on the power play on the night while the Rangers went 2 for 3.
“I think I’m probably stating the obvious, but the special teams made the difference,” Sullivan said. “We have to be better.”
GAME 7 UNCERTAINTY
Crosby skated early Friday morning with Pittsburgh skating and skill development coach Ty Hennes, but was not part of the Penguins’ elective program. His status for Sunday is unknown.
Jarry, who has been out since mid-April with a broken foot, took shots while skating but was held up again. Penguins forward Rickard Rakell missed his fifth straight game after receiving a hit in Game 1 of the series. Pittsburgh lost veteran forward Brian Boyle in the first period. Sullivan said Boyle was being evaluated for a lower body injury.
PREDICT THE FUTURE?
Gallant said before the playoffs started that the only time home ice matters in the playoffs is in Game 7.
“I hope I’m right,” Gallant said. “We played well in our building. And like I said, it’s a Game 7. Winner goes on. Loser goes home. So I think it’s going to be a great game.”
The Penguins, by the way, are all-time undefeated (6-0) in Game 7 on the road.