For most of game seven, “Bread Man” was toast. He wasn’t really doing a whole lot over the first 64 minutes and 46 seconds, but Artemi Panarin picked the right time to make his presence felt.
Panarin scored the game and series winning power play goal at 4:46 of overtime as the Rangers came from behind once again to beat the Penguins, 4-3 in game seven at Madison Square Garden last night. “He’s the guy when I was into overtime, I said to myself, ‘I know he’s gonna score if we score. If we get the winning goal, it’s gonna be him,” head coach Gerard Gallant said after the game.
Panarin can sometimes seem like he’s invisible on the ice, but seemingly out of nowhere, he can seize an opportunity. Jacob Trouba appreciates having number ten as a teammate. “For being such a highly skilled, talented player, he doesn’t act like it, he’s just another guy, another player on the team. That’s a pretty cool thing for a guy that level. Happy to have him.”
K’Andre Miller, who was fabulous in his first game seven experience, set up the game winner when he drove to the net and drew a holding penalty on Penguins left wing Brock McGinn at 2:55 of overtime.
Adam Fox fed Panarin who moved into the right faceoff circle and fired the puck past Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry, setting off a wild celebration on and off the ice at the Garden.
Jarry was playing his first game in a month and acquitted himself very well as he made 26 saves, including a stop on Tyler Motte who was in on a shorthanded breakaway in the third period when it was a one goal deficit for the Rangers. Panarin was in the penalty box for a high stick at the time as the Rangers took some foolish penalties.
Igor Shesterkin returned to form as he made 42 saves including some jaw dropping stops that kept the game from getting out of hand. “We know who we have back there, we trust him. He’s such a calm presence back there. Just gives us that confidence to go and get the next one. [goal] Just need one,” said Mika Zibanejad who came alive in the final two games.
About seven minutes into the first period, Shesterkin made four saves in less than 30 seconds to keep the Penguins off the board. He also made four saves on Sidney Crosby, who returned to the lineup to spark the Penguins, but the Rangers were able to keep him from making a huge impact.
The ice surface wasn’t in great shape, but it was the same for both teams. A number of times there was patch work done on the ice. Panarin was particularly frustrated as the puck kept bouncing on him.
Zibanejad tied the game with his third goal of the series. Gallant shook up the lines and had Andrew Copp playing with Zibanejad. Copp had the puck down low and fed Zibanejad in the right faceoff circle where he fired it past Jarry for the tying score. The Rangers #1 center had a goal and two assists and had seven points (3G, 4A) in the final two games.
Chris Kreider gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead at 7:35 of the first period. Kreider took a cross ice feed from Zibanejad and fired a one timer past Jarry. Braden Schneider picked up the secondary assist. Kreider tied Mark Messier for second place on the Rangers’ all time list with his 29th career playoff goal.
With Trouba off on a double minor for high sticking, Pittsburgh tied the game on a power play goal by Danton Heinen at 18:51 of the first period. The Penguins thought the goal crossed the line but play continued until the horn sounded a few moments later, meaning the officials in Toronto had seen the puck go completely over the goal line.
In the second, the Penguins scored their second power play goal as Jake Guentzel scored his eighth goal of the series to make it a 2-1 game. Guentzel used his skate to kick the puck to himself and he was able to bat it in out of mid-air. After a review to see if Guentzel scored with a high stick, the call was upheld.
Miller tied the game with his first career playoff goal, just a minute and five seconds after Pittsburgh took the lead. The young defenseman threw a shot towards the net and it deflected in off of Penguins defenseman Mike Matheson.
With the Rangers on the power play, Filip Chytil, who was playing a strong game, made a bad pass that was intercepted by Evan Rodrigues who was off on a breakaway. Rodrigues beat Shesterkin for a shorthanded goal and the Penguins had a 3-2 lead after two.
Trailing by one going into the third period was familiar territory for these Rangers. “We talked about it between the second and third period,” Gallant said. “We’re never out of a hockey game. Our best period is in the third, obviously, so they felt confident.”
Trouba put the win in perspective. “It’s a huge win for the team, for the organization,” he said. “Gutsy performance, coming back again, that whole ‘no quit in ny’ is pretty true with this group.”
The Rangers’ have been a resilient bunch all year long and that was no different in this series as they were able to rebound from a three games to one deficit. “This has been our team all year,” Zibanejad said. “No matter how the game goes, whatever happens, we stick together, we work and we know what we have in that locker room.”