The Rangers must do more to contain Sidney Crosby

Gerard Gallant said he didn’t want Rangers to focus on Sidney Crosby and by God his team followed the head coach’s instructions to the tee.

Unfortunately, the blueshirts seemed to take Gallant’s message literally, with the No. 87 and linesmates Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust putting on a scintillating and dominating display in the Penguins’ 4-3 treble in overtime at the Garden on Tuesday to clinch a 1st-place finish :0 to achieve Lead in best-of-seven.

Crosby didn’t get the winner. That belonged to Evgeni Malkin, who scored after 105:58 of pulsing hockey with a deflection counted as an 83rd shot against a brave Igor Shesterkin. Rangers had their chances, oh, they had their chances throughout this contest – in which Casey DeSmith matched Shesterkin’s work before going 9:18 into the second overtime with an undefined illness. Relief network manager Louis Domingue threw the shutout ball the rest of the way while he had 16 shots.

Although Shesterkin was superlative in this case, the penguins noted that he wasn’t impregnable. who would be The fact of the matter is that DeSmith and Domingue canceled out the perceived advantage of the blueshirts on the nets right off the bat. Shadow by Jeff Zatkoff in 2017.

If Rangers went into this game inexperienced, they certainly have everyone in this contest, where they grabbed a 2-0 lead early in the second after a dominant first 23 minutes from penalties, and Crosby’s unit made a dramatic turn in the game amount of it competition.

Sidney Crosby (second right) celebrates with Jake Guentzel (59) and his teammates after Guentzel's goal in the second half of Rangers' 4-3 triple overtime loss to the Penguins.
Sidney Crosby (second right) celebrates with Jake Guentzel (59) and his teammates after Guentzel’s goal in the second half of Rangers’ 4-3 triple overtime loss to the Penguins.
NY Post: Charles Wenzelberg

Rangers weren’t as straight forward anymore. Their forecheck play – characterized by a four-line rotation resembling rolling thunder – largely evaporated. The blueshirts went back to their habit of looking for the perfect play rather than getting the puck down or in the net. There was turnover in the neutral zone. Mid-ice shots were passed off in favor of passes to more acute angles. Opportunities have been missed.

Rangers earned their first power play at 8:58 of the first period, which they capitalized on when Adam Fox gave his team a 1-0 lead at 9:19. The Blueshirts didn’t get a second chance for the next 97 minutes.

Gallant had all four of his forward units against the Crosby connection in the first half of the game before settling on power-on-power with a straight game against the Chris Kreider-Mika Zibanejad line. It certainly wasn’t from a lack of effort, but it proved difficult as Rangers were forced to play in their own endgame far too often.

“They will create chances, but of course the best way to prevent them from taking their chances is to have the puck in the O-Zone with some time,” said Zibanejad, who finished 14-07 against Crosby a total of 32 of No. 93 was :32. “It’s a tough fight but I think it’s fun to compete against a guy like that.

“I like it. Of course I’ll get to know him a lot better. So let’s just move on.”

Crosby’s been snooping around all night. He controlled the game. This is a Crosby who missed six games in the opening round loss to the Islanders last year. His line garnered 71.67 percent of five-on-five attempts with a 72.73 percent shot percentage and an ungodly 78.96 xGF in play against an elite opponent.

There was a lot of good in that, even if the club couldn’t keep their game or lead 2-0 and 3-2. The guys who came in with no playoff experience now have a decent dose of it. The kid line, starring Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko, had some impressive moments. They grew in that game, even though Chytil, with two teams, lost the puck late in the game.

The Blueshirts tried to get the puck on Domingue but could never create a golden opportunity to hit it, even in a wild second overtime in which the clubs combined 36 shots on the net (19 for the Blueshirts) or nearly two per minute. Seems kinda impossible.

Artemi Panarin had a rough night, spending most of his time bottled and often trying to force the issue. The frustration emanating from No. 10 was evident, even as his unity with Ryan Strome and Andrew Copp opened up multiple opportunities. Just two shots on the net in 10 attempts in 34:10 ice time for Panarin.

This was just Game 1. Rangers need to turn this in, learn from it and hope this workload doesn’t affect Shesterkin for Game 2 on Thursday. Life goes fast in the playoffs. Crosby too. Rangers might want to focus a little more closely on No. 87 next time. The Rangers must do more to contain Sidney Crosby


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