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March 25, 2019
by Michael Menser Dell, Editor-in-Chief
Marian Hossa scored two goals, including the winner at 7:10 of overtime, to carry the Pittsburgh Penguins to a series-clinching 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers in a truly thrilling Game Five. The Pens will now face the Flyers in the Wales Conference Finals. Start donating blood now. It could get chippy.
The winning goal started with Sidney Crosby screaming through center and chipping a puck to Pascal Dupuis on left wing. Dupuis' return pass was behind Kid Crosby, allowing Daniel Girardi to step up and boot it aside. Unfortunately for Girardi, the bouncing puck came right to Hossa trailing the play, and the Slovakian sniper buried it five-hole on Henrik Lundqvist. And, yes, there was much rejoicing.
This was a great game from start to finish. The Rangers came to play. I expected Pittsburgh to have a much easier time of it, but the Blueshirts never quit.
New York looked like the home team in the opening minutes, pressing the attack and testing Marc-Andre Fleury with a couple quality scoring chances early. As the period progressed, the Penguins began to take control, using their speed on the forecheck and cycling the puck low. It only seemed a matter of time before the Birds broke Lundqvist.
At 8:45 of the second, Hossa did the honors on the power play. Crosby centered to Ryan Malone in the slot, but instead of pulling the trigger, Malone slipped a sweet pass across to Hossa all alone on the right side. That's automatic for the people. Lundqvist didn't have a chance.
Pittsburgh only ramped up the intensity from there, and Evgeni Malkin made it 2-0 at 12:40 of the middle frame. Malkin lugged the puck into the New York zone only to have it poked away as he hit the hash marks in the left circle. Geno the Scoring Machine-o slammed on the brakes, spun around, and fired a wicked backhander over Lundqvist's right shoulder.
When the puck dropped for the third period, the Penguins had the 2-0 lead, and there was no sense the Blueshirts would be able to come back. Throughout the playoffs, Pittsburgh has demonstrated the ability to clamp down defensively in the third and choke out teams, but the Rangers never tapped. Any why should they panic? They have the great Lauri Korpikoski!
Faster than you could say "Who the (sunshine) is Lauri Korpikoski?," the 21-year-old Finn jumped into the Pittsburgh zone on right wing and rifled a wrist shot behind Fleury. Korpikoski? Really?
As everyone was busy calculating the Scrabble value of Korpikoski, the Rangers struck again. Nigel Dawes skated free down the slot and redirected a Scott Gomez feed behind Fleury to tie it 2-2.
Two quick ones. It's been the theme of the '08 postseason. The Ranger goals came just 1:23 apart, shocking the Birds and silencing the Igloo faithful. New York was all over Pittsburgh down the stretch, but Fleury turned in one big save after another to keep things even.
Chris Drury took a four-minute high-sticking penalty on Malone with 1:18 left in regulation to push the momentum back to Pittsburgh. Ironically, Malone had cut Drury earlier in the game with an errant high-stick in front of the Ranger cage, but nothing was called. I'm sure it'll give New York fans something to cry about all summer. Hey, life isn't fair. If it were, do you think Dane Cook would be a millionaire?
Thanks to a huge Lundqvist save on Crosby in the final seconds, the Rangers managed to survive regulation. Having overtime begin with a Pittsburgh power play on fresh ice certainly seemed ominous for the Blueshirts, but they somehow escaped unscathed, even generating a glorious scoring chance of their own when Marc Staal and Marty Straka broke two-on-one. But instead of shooting, Staal tried to pass back to Straka, and Malkin backchecked like a fiend to disrupt the play.
That set the stage for Hossa's heroics. It was a valiant effort from the Rangers, but Pittsburgh is simply the better team. Deal with it.
Lauri Korpikoski: Fear Korpikoski! Who in the blue hell is Lauri Korpikoski? Whoever he is, he played a swell third period. He only had three shifts through 40 minutes before sparking the New York comeback.
Nigel Dawes: He scored the tying goal and led his team with four shots on goal. Dawes was New York's best forward.
Henrik Lundqvist: King Henrik was scary good. For a while there in the second, it seemed like the Penguins were never going to score again. He's the only reason this game was close. He stopped 37 on the afternoon, and he didn't exactly have the Apple Dumpling Gang shooting at him.
Marian Hossa: It was a long time coming for Hossa. He had been getting scoring chances o' plenty. If they start going in the net, it'll be a whole lot of grief for opposing clubs.
While his scoring touch has been off a bit, Hossa's hustle and hard work has never wavered. No one backchecks harder or smarter than Big Poppa Pump.
Before he put his first goal in the net, Hossa raced back to stifle a New York shorthanded rush. Once the play was established back in Ranger ice, Hossa busted his tail to prevent a clear, diving to sweep the puck back in the zone before it crossed the stripe. The play continued, eventually ending when Hossa buried Malone's pass behind Lundqvist.
Jarkko Ruutu: Yeah, the Finnish Slash took another bad penalty, but he was yapping up a storm. And Jaromir Jagr was the main target of abuse. After dominating play at Madison Square Garden, Jagr found it tough sledding back in Pittsburgh, mostly due to Ruutu's harsh treatment. Jagr didn't register a single shot in Game Five. Ruutu took Puff Nuts out of his comfort zone.
If Crosby is Gretzky, and Malkin is Lemieux, Ruutu is definitely Esa Tikkanen.
Evgeni Malkin: While Kid Crosby had a solid game, Malkin was even better. Geno has just been dynamic each and every night. He's special. His backhander was sick, and I'm also diggin' the mean streak he's been showing. Good stuff.
Marc-Andre Fleury: The Flower was rock solid again. He stopped 20 of 22, including a several key saves at the beginning and end of regulation. With about three minutes to go in the third, Fleury stopped Drury and Dawes on back-to-back chances. His best save, though, came about a minute later when Dawes threw a long wrister on net that Brendan Shanahan tipped in the high slot. Fleury somehow stayed with the puck long enough to fight it off, keeping the game tied.
This was a perfect example of Fleury's improved maturity. He gave up two third-period goals 1:23 apart and never got rattled. Good luck beating him four times in seven games.