Midway through overtime, Carl Hagelin got the puck in the Pittsburgh Penguins‘ zone. He brought it in a sweeping arc around the right side of the ice and snapped it toward the net. Marc-Andre Fleury, who had already stopped 34 of 35 shots on the night, was positioned low in the net. This shot went past his glove. The buzzer sounded, the red light went off, and Madison Square Garden erupted in cheers..
Hagelin, sprawled on his stomach on the ice, celebrated his OT game-winning, series-clinching goal from beneath the pile of his equally excited teammates. The New York Rangers were moving on to round two.
The Rangers defeated the Penguins, 2-1, in the fifth game of the first-round playoff series on Friday night. The Rangers now move on to the second round for the fourth consecutive season and will take on the winner of the New York Islanders/Washington Capitals series. The Penguins, meanwhile, will hit the golf course.
It was an evenly matched, hard-fought game that came down to the wire. It was also, coincidentally, the fourth game of the series that ended in with a score of 2-1; the Rangers won all four of these 2-1 finals.
Derek Stepan started off the scoring with a power play goal at 4:23 in the first period. He kicked the puck to himself to set up his shot–a bit of a soccer move–and finished his shot right in front of the net to give the Rangers an early 1-0 lead.
The Penguins’ Nick Spaling then tied the game at 1-1 late in the second period with a goal that went off his arm and past Henrik Lundqvist; the play was sent for review, but the call on the ice stood and the goal counted.
The third period was arguably the fastest-paced period of the series, and it was highly competitive. Both teams shot pucks off the crossbars and had a number of solid scoring chances, especially in the closing minutes of the period. Lundqvist and Fleury stood tall in their respective nets and made huge save after huge save. They were impenetrable, and overtime looked all but inevitable.
The parallels between this season and the 1994 season continue; the last time the Rangers clinched a playoff series in overtime was in the Eastern Conference Final against the New Jersey Devils during their famed 1994 Stanley Cup run.
Just something to note.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME:
LOOKING AHEAD/OF NOTE:
–Mats Zuccarello left the game toward the end of the first period after getting hit in the side of the head by a Ryan McDonagh slapshot. He did not return, and his condition is currently undisclosed. Zuccarello recorded 1 hit and 3 shots in 4:56 of ice time.
–Kevin Klein did not play again tonight, although he reportedly has been skating and practicing with the team. Still no word on when he will return.
-The Capitals currently hold a 3-games-to-2 lead in their series against the Islanders. Game Six will take place Saturday afternoon on Long Island. The Rangers were 2-3 against the Islanders during the regular season and 3-1 against the Capitals.