The New York Rangers were heavily-favored to win their first-round series against Pittsburgh, and although the Penguins made it tougher on them than many suspected they would, the Pens once again didn’t have enough to outlast the Blueshirts in a low-scoring game and fell 2-1 Friday in Game 5 to be eliminated from the playoffs .
The New York Rangers had the NHL’s third-best offense this season and were heavily-favored to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in their first-round playoff series. The Blueshirts couldn’t get that offense untracked against Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and never scored more than two goals in any of their wins, but they showed they could play some solid ‘D’ of their own and beat Pittsburgh 2-1 in overtime Friday to eliminate the Penguins in five games.
All four of the Rangers’ wins came by a 2-1 score, and two of them came in overtime. Fleury, who deserved a better fate and certainly shook off his reputation as an inconsistent playoff performer, stopped 34 of 36 shots Friday and posted a .927 save percentage in the series, but he never got the support on offense any NHL goalie needs to win a playoff series. Only in the Pens’ Game 2 4-3 win did Pittsburgh score more than a single goal in a game. For a team that employs Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, that’s simply unacceptable. Granted, the Penguins were without a number of injured players – including star defenseman Kris Letang and blueliner Christian Ehrhoff – but the presence of those two likely wouldn’t have led to a massive increase in goals-for. It was hard to argue the Penguins were among the elite teams in the Eastern Conference heading into the series, and these five games confirm they’re not.
In the end, the Pens didn’t have the depth and experience the Blueshirts could boast of, and it showed in all four losses. The Rangers were on their heels at times, but never lost their composure when it counted. The Penguins managed to put together spurts of strong play, but could never come together in crucial situations. That’s why they’re going home, and the Rangers are going to the second round.