Brassard wins it in overtime, Rangers take Game OneMay 3, 2014, by
Derick Brassard become the first player in NHL history to record an overtime winner and an overtime assist (same with Benoit Pouliot I guess), as he roofed a pass from Pouliot over Marc-Andre Fleury in overtime, giving the Rangers a 3-2 victory in Game One. The Rangers won this game not through puck possession domination, but by cashing in on poor Penguins defense and turnovers. Their final two goals were the direct result of poor coverage, and their first was a result of Fleury being FLOLeury.
Pouliot (1-1-2) and Dan Girardi (0-2-2) were the two Rangers that recorded multi-point nights. Henrik Lundqvist was outstanding, making 34 saves to hold a potent Pittsburgh offense at bay. The overall team defense was –as per usual– fantastic. Anton Stralman and Marc Staal were assigned the Sidney Crosby line, while Evgeni Malkin wound up drawing the Dan Girardi-Ryan McDonagh combo (Pens had last change, and kept Crosby away from Girardi/McDonagh). Both sets of defensemen were excellent in shutting down the two superstars. The Rangers needed their defense to perform, and they did.
On to the goals:
Rangers 1, Pens 0
This is one that Fleury wants back. After Girardi blocked a shot, Pouliot picked up the puck and skated down the ice on Olli Maata. Maata didn’t force Pouliot to the outside, allowing him to gain inside positioning and a decent chance from the high slot. Regardless, this was all FLOLeury.
Rangers 2, Pens 0
Carl Hagelin pressured Maata in the corner, forcing him into a turnover. Matt Niskanen, instead of sticking to the front of the net, went to pressure Hagelin, leaving Brad Richards wide open in front. Once Hagelin got the puck to him, Richards had time to accept the pass on his backhand, transfer to his forehand, and beat Fleury.
Also, those watching live didn’t see the play develop, as NBCSN cut away to that stupid corner close-up camera, and didn’t get back to Richards until he was already on his forehand. That camera angle needs to be banished from the production. It doesn’t add value, it’s a really stupid angle, and it doesn’t show anyone what’s going on. The game of hockey happens away from the puck, with guys cutting to open areas. No one is scoring from the corner. Seriously. NBC, cut that crap out.
Pens 1, Rangers 2
When Beau Bennett gained the Rangers zone with Marcel Goc, he left a drop pass for Lee Stempniak, who was the late man in. Brassard saw the play, but gave a weak stick check on Stempniak instead of taking the body. Stempniak was able to shake him off, skate to the slot, and put a backhander past Hank. Stempniak also beat Mats Zuccarello to the slot, but Zucc (and Kevin Klein) were out of position here. There’s a bit of a whole team fail on this.
Pens 2, Rangers 2
For the second straight goal, the Pens found the late trailer into the zone for the goal. This time around, James Neal collected a Jussi Jokinen pass and teed it up from the high slot. The shot was stopped by Hank, but went straight up into the air. Hank lost sight of it, and it rolled down his back and in, with Malkin on the doorstep. In this case, Neal was Carcillo’s man.
Rangers 3, Pens 2
This goal was all Pouliot. Rob Scuderi had the puck initially, and was attempting to circle the puck behind the net to Rob Bortozzo. That’s where Pouliot intercepted the puck, and there was no way for the Pens to recover. Crosby was forced to cut off Pouliot’s lane to the front, and Bortozzo had two choices: Attempt to get to the front or cut off Pouliot’s path behind the net. In hindsight, it’s easy to say Bortozzo should have cut to the front to cover for Crosby leaving his spot, but there’s no way he would have made it in time to get a stick on Brassard’s shot. Chris Kunitz was also a bit stuck, but he was watching the puck instead of sticking Zuccarello.
You can say this goal is on Crosby for leaving the front, or on Bortozzo for not getting to the front. Honestly, once Scuderi turned the puck over, it was just a bang-bang hockey play. Only Brassard knew the puck was in, and the play continued. Eventually the Rangers won it again when Brass fed Pouliot (again alone in front) who banged it home.
The Pens wound up with a 54.5% Fenwick advantage at even strength and a 55.7% Fenwick advantage at close situations. But it’s worth noting that puck possession, while having a direct correlation to long-term success, is about a 60/40 (weighted coin flip) advantage in a single game scenario. We saw many –too many– games where the Rangers dominated puck possession and still lost. This time it happened in reverse. The Penguins defense is weak, and cashing in on those chances will help eliminate the weighted coin flip odds.
The Rangers needed to get a split in Pittsburgh, and they did just that. With another back-to-back coming up on Sunday-Monday, a Game One win was almost a necessity to ensure a strong chance of winning the series. They weren’t perfect, and that second period was a bit of a tire fire, but as long as they pressure that Pittsburgh defense into turnovers, they will have a great chance at advancing.