Suddenly the Rangers look more like themselves in the regular season

The New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins would have struggled to repeat the drama of the opening game of their playoff series, whic...


The New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins would have struggled to repeat the drama of the opening game of their playoff series, which the Penguins won in triple overtime.

The division rivals battled again on Thursday, but this time the young Rangers held off the more experienced Penguins despite the efforts of their endlessly creative star center Sidney Crosby.

After 106 minutes of hockey on Tuesday, the question was whether the Rangers — and especially their goaltender, Igor Shesterkin, who had stopped 79 shots — would bounce back. After an uneven start, Shesterkin and Rangers found their way in the second period and won 5-2, in convincing fashion.

“It was a good first step in the right direction,” said Rangers left winger Artemi Panarin, who scored one goal and had two assists.

The win tied the best-of-seven series, which now travels to Pittsburgh for Game 3 on Saturday and Game 4 on Monday. He’s also guarding the young Rangers, who returned to the playoffs for the first time in five seasons after amassing 110 regular-season points, in the hunt for the Stanley Cup.

That’s good news for the NHL, which thrives when its former clubs win.

Since the playoffs were finalized last week, the top-selling merchandise on Fanatics, the largest online seller of licensed sporting goods, has belonged to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Rangers and Boston Bruins, all of the “Original Six” teams.

Throughout the regular season, the top four selling teams were the Seattle Kraken (which made their debut in 2021), the Bruins, Maple Leafs and Rangers. The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins took the next two spots.

Rangers merchandise sales jumped 190% from last season, Fanatics said.

“Nothing against the Flames or the Southeast teams, but that group of original teams is still very strong,” said Andy Dolich, a longtime marketing executive for the Oakland A’s, San Francisco 49ers and New Yorkers. Memphis Grizzlies, who sold season tickets for the Washington Capitals in the 1970s right after they joined the NHL

The league’s oldest teams have also bolstered television viewership. The number of people tuning into the first eight playoff games on ESPN and ESPN2 this week was 15% higher than the first two nights of the playoffs in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday, the first night of the playoffs, the most-watched game was the game between the Boston Bruins and the Carolina Hurricanes. Tuesday, the Penguins-Rangers The triple-overtime game was the most-watched playoff opener on cable TV since 1994, according to ESPN.

“There is equal passion across all 32 teams, but quality and quantity are two different things,” said Emily Kaplan, who covers the NHL for the network. “The equity that the original six teams have built is hard to touch.”

Rangers were hard to hit in the second half on Thursday.

They hit the first under seven minutes when Panarin, their leading passer, held the puck in the left crease and waited until he could find Andrew Copp, who fired the puck past the Penguins goaltender. Louis Domingue, which was screened by Ryan Strome.

Two minutes later, Crosby stole the puck from Panarin at center ice, skated into the offensive zone and lost the puck, but he found his way to Jacob Guentzel, who pulled him past Shesterkin.

For the first 20 minutes, Rangers looked like the most depleted team – especially Shesterkin, who was unable to control many shots, creating a second chance for the Penguins.

But the Rangers found their groove after the Penguins were called for a second-period penalty. The Rangers had the fourth-best power play in the regular season, but only had one power-play chance on Tuesday.

“It was about time” for the Penguins to be awarded a penalty, Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said after the game.

With seconds left on the penalty, Strome deflected a shot that Panarin fired towards the net. That seemed to energize Rangers. About 12 minutes into the second period, Chris Kreider, who scored 52 regular season goals, redirected a Frank Vatrano shot into the net.

But Crosby again showed why he remains one of the best players in the game. With just 90 seconds left in the period, he hauled the puck from deep in the Penguins defensive zone to the end of the Rangers rink, largely with Rangers defenseman Justin Braun at his side. kits. Crosby passed the puck to Bryan Rust, who shot; Crosby picked up the rebound and put it in the net.

“Overall, we’ve contained him a bit, but he’s a great player,” Gallant said of his team’s defense against Crosby, which had a goal and an assist.

The Rangers missed the game eight minutes into the third period, when Panarin skated behind the Penguins net and threw the puck into the goal crease, where it struck the skate of Penguins defenseman Mike Matheson and bounced into the net.

Panarin said he was trying to pass the puck to defenseman Jacob Trouba.

Less than two minutes later, Vatrano raced to the right, eluding Matheson, and tossed the puck over Domingue’s right shoulder for a 5-2 lead.

Domingue was the hero for the Penguins on Tuesday, entering the game in second overtime and stopping all 17 shots he faced. On Thursday, making his first playoff start, he couldn’t hold off the faster Rangers.



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