This was April all over again. Déjà vu.
This was the Rangers getting blitzed by the Penguins like they were in the final two games of the first-round playoff series between the two seven months ago. This was Henrik Lundqvist getting pulled in his third straight meeting with Pittsburgh, including those final two playoff matches.
A second-period meltdown doomed the Rangers in a 6-1 loss Wednesday night at the Garden, just two days after the Blueshirts won, 5-2, in Pittsburgh.
After the Rangers led 1-0 through one, Lundqvist allowed four goals on seven shots over a span of 10:55 in the second and was pulled at 12:57 for Antti Raanta. And just like in the postseason, the Rangers (14-6-1) didn’t do their goaltender any favors, sloppiness abounding while the Penguins (12-5-3) ran down their throats.
“It’s very difficult to explain, but there’s no doubt we disappointed ourselves tonight and we disappointed our fans,” Alain Vigneault said.
A second-period meltdown doomed the Rangers.
After the second period snowballed, the Rangers seemed to completely fold in the third when they were being outshot, 16-0, in the period until Mats Zuccarello’s harmless backhand was gloved by Matt Murray with 3:45 left in the game. That was the Blueshirts’ 14th shot overall and first since there was 7:44 left in the second, a stretch of 23:59 without a shot on goal. Pittsburgh finished with a 38-17 shot advantage.
Raanta was excellent Monday after allowing a soft early goal, so much so that Alain Vigneault was asked after that game if he decided on Wednesday’s goaltender. Vigneault had decided but hadn’t talked to his goalies yet.
Asked Wednesday morning if he at all considered Raanta for the second leg of the home-and-home, Vigneault smiled and said “No. Hank’s the guy. It’s his turn.”
Afterward, Vigneault said he pulled Lundqvist “both” for performance and to try to get a spark.
The Rangers seemed to completely fold in the third period, when they were being outshot 16-0 until the 3:45-minute mark.
“If you get a couple extra saves there, it’s a different game,” Lundqvist said. “I know that, I think everybody knows that. It’s how you respond to that. They kept coming. I’ll definitely learn from it. I know in couple of instances there what I have to change and do better. In the first, I was doing those things and I got the result, and then I got away from it. When you play those teams that play really well side-to-side, the awareness is key. If you don’t have it as a goalie, it’s a tougher game.”
The final goal Lundqvist allowed came when Ryan McDonagh — who got a five-minute boarding major in the first for a hit from behind on Conor Sheary, which prompted Sidney Crosby (two goals, assist) to go after McDonagh and get a roughing minor — broke up Crosby’s pass on a two-on-one and the puck floated over Lundqvist’s right shoulder. Lundqvist’s stick went airborne as he desperately tried to make a last-second save.
“(Pittsburgh’s) a good team and we didn’t have an answer,” Derek Stepan said. “We didn’t even give ourselves a chance.”
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News