A day later coming off a very tough 4-3 loss in a long Game One that needed triple overtime to decide, the Rangers had the day off.
After playing over five periods, that’s to be expected. Especially when many players logged more minutes than they’re used to. Gerard Gallant discussed both last night’s game and what the keys are to evening the first round series against the Penguins.
“Consistency with our game. Play that battle. Play that heavy game for 60 minutes. We did some good things the first 25 minutes,” he told reporters earlier today.
While he liked how they started Tuesday’s game by coming out hitting and forechecking which helped lead to a 2-0 lead early in the second period, Gallant emphasized how his team must do it over 60 minutes.
He felt they allowed the Pens to start going tape to tape and come out of their zone too easily. That allowed them to open up the game and gain traction. They were able to pick up the pace and attack more.
Taking away the time and space of the skilled Pens will be a key to squaring the series. Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust had their way in Game One. Even when up against Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider and Frank Vatrano, they had the upper hand.
It’ll be interesting to see what adjustments Gallant makes when it comes to slowing the Crosby line down. Of course, it helps to forecheck that unit so they defend more. Something that Zibanejad indicated during last night’s postgame interview with teammate Ryan Strome.
They know they’ll have to be better. The key is consistency. While Turk likes playing that heavy style featuring Ryan Reaves, it’s not just about hitting. It’s about sustaining a forecheck with puck pressure down low. That’s how you can wear out the opposition over a seven-game series.
In regards to Ryan Lindgren, who missed most of the third period and didn’t play in the third overtime due to a lower-body injury, Gallant hinted that he expects him to be ready to go for tomorrow’s game.
“[Lindgren] banged up a little bit. But he’ll be there I’m sure. Just maintenance.”
As far as reviewing last night’s game, the coach was very diplomatic about the officiating. He didn’t like that the Pens got a five-on-three. That proved to be large due to Rust scoring off a tic-tac-toe play from Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang with Jacob Trouba off for boarding Guentzel.
That power play goal negated a beautiful shorthanded goal from Chris Kreider that had put the Rangers up 3-2 on a Penguins five-on-four. A terrific play by Zibanejad who jumped on the puck and laid out a great pass that Kreider got to and beat Pens goalie Casey DeSmith with a backhand deke.
Had they avoided the extra penalty which I can’t disagree with, maybe it’s a different game. Instead, the Pens tied it up to regain momentum.
“There probably should’ve been a couple of calls made. Definitely when you go back and look at it,” Gallant said.
“But we’re going to go play our game. … That wasn’t the difference in the hockey game. We just gotta make sure we play better for 60 minutes.”
Perhaps he’s referring to the missed cross-check Crosby had in the first overtime. That definitely could’ve been called. But neither ref wanted to blow the whistle. Something that was noted in last night’s game story.
I didn’t have much issue with the officiating in sudden death. They let the teams play. It was very clean. Neither side forced the stripes to call an obvious stick infraction.
Gallant said he was happy with how Filip Chytil, Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko played. They created some good looks off the cycle due to their speed and skill. Chytil missed on a couple.
Of course, Kakko nearly had Chytil set up for the potential winner with 3:10 left in regulation. An overturned goal that’s still being debated in hockey circles.
It remains split. Kind of like the 50/50 view that was referenced by Strome and Rangers studio analyst Henrik Lundqvist. It is interesting to note that Steve Valiquette is the only one who felt it should’ve counted. He made a good case.
There wasn’t much Kakko could’ve done. He made a good aggressive play driving hard to the net. He tried to score on a forehand deke, but bumped into DeSmith with some help from Brian Dumoulin.
Even though it didn’t count, the play Kakko made from his stomach to pass back for Chytil was outstanding. That along with his chance to win it in overtime should be a confidence boost. He played a good game.
Gallant felt bad that they got caught on for the Evgeni Malkin winner. It was unfortunate because he liked how the third line played. The positive is they didn’t look intimidated. Lafreniere had five hits including a couple of good ones early.
If anything, last night’s playoff introduction should be beneficial for the first round pick trio. Let’s see if they can build on it for tomorrow.
A player who must be better is Artemi Panarin. The time off that included missing the last couple of games seemed to throw his timing off. While the skating was there, the touch and feel wasn’t. He had trouble handling pucks and only finished with two shots on net.
The Pens gave the Bread Man special attention. That’ll continue to be an intriguing match-up. It’s up to Panarin to pick it up. He has to be sharper. Line mates Andrew Copp and Strome were. They need the straw that stirs the drink to raise his level.
If Lindgren is in for Game Two, that leaves Gallant two options. He can put Justin Braun in for Patrik Nemeth, who took two minors and was on for the winner. Or he could dress seven defensemen as insurance if Lindgren’s injury lingers.
If Turk went with seven D and 11 forwards, he can double shift his best players and mix in Barclay Goodrow and Ryan Reaves or Kevin Rooney. That’s not a bad way to go. My guess is if Lindgren is okay, Gallant will have Braun in for Nemeth and roll with the same four lines.
On the injury front, the Pens look like they’ll be without DeSmith. He left with 10:42 remaining in the second overtime. If it was cramping, he’d likely be available. He limped off the ice.
Apparently, the lower-body injury will prevent him from starting Game Two. The Penguins have recalled goalie Alex D’Orio.
That means Louis Domingue will be in net. He did a good job coming on in relief by stopping all 17 shots he faced to earn the win. He even admitted to being shocked when they told him he was going in.
If there’s one thing they must do differently, it’s getting traffic in front on Domingue, who’s a right glove. He had no trouble picking up some of the shots in sudden death. The Pens also defended well on front of him.
While they want to get as many shots through tomorrow, having players screening and looking for rebounds has to be a strategy. Ditto for deflections. The Rangers must make life difficult on Domingue.
Jason Zucker could also be ready for tomorrow. With Rickard Rakell unlikely to dress, look for Zucker to play in Game Two. He also has a nose for the net. So, they should pay attention to him.
One more thing. There were too many instances during overtime where you noticed the Pens’ secondary forwards creating chances like the tough backhand he got on Igor Shesterkin. Ditto for Evan Rodrigues.
They crashed the net and made it tough on Shesterkin. The defense must do a better job clearing the front. They reverted to October and November mode. Take care of business.
Two days of the postseason already have produced some interesting results. With the Caps shocking the Panthers last night, anything can happen. Ask Edmonton and Mike Smith.
That’s gonna do it for now. Enjoy tonight’s slate of games. I’ll be locked into Lightning/Leafs. It should be interesting to see how Tampa responds to the 5-0 Game One blowout loss in Toronto. I’m also curious to see how the Oilers respond to that 4-3 loss to the Kings.