PITTSBURGH -- The New York Rangers’ Game 5 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins will be remembered for the way the team stood behind teammate Martin St. Louis, who played despite the death of his mother just one day prior. However, overshadowed in what was a touching show of support in the 5-1 win was that the team’s woeful power play had a terrific night after an extended stretch of failures.
The Rangers scored a pair of man-up markers against the Penguins, finally halting a slump that seemed interminable. Prior to Friday’s action, the Blueshirts had been blanked on 36 straight attempts, a skid that lasted nine games.
That ended 9:36 into play in Game 5 when Chris Kreider buried a rebound for a 1-0 Rangers lead.
“The big thing is scoring a power play early,” veteran center Brad Richards said. “That took a little weight off us. We talked about it the other night. You get something to go your way early. It’s amazing what it can do. It gets contagious and you start building.”
For a team that was riding an emotional spark, trying to avoid elimination, and attempting to keep the Penguins on their heels, Kreider’s goal provided the necessary boost of confidence.
From there, they built on that lead and, despite Evgeni Malkin’s spectacular second-period goal, were able to keep Pittsburgh from scratching their way back into the game. With the game 2-1 in the second period, the Penguins were whistled for a bench minor for too many men on the ice. It took defenseman Ryan McDonagh just 16 seconds into the man-advantage to cash in, notching his first goal of the playoffs with his slapshot from the right point that beat Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury.
Not only was it a critical goal that effectively stemmed the penguins’ surge, it was an important night for McDonagh, who has had a disappointing series.
The young defenseman, who missed the last five regular-season games, finished with a goal and an assist in a strong bounce-back performance.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault was pleased with what he saw.
“I don’t want to say it was the first time we saw Ryan McDonagh in the playoffs,” Vigneault said. But that’s the way I know he can play, that’s the way we need him to play.”
In fact, Vigneault preemptively squashed speculation that McDonagh may be playing through injury, a theory that gained steam the more one-on-one battles he lost, and the more lackluster games he had.
“He’s not hurt,” Vigneault said “And he needs to play that way.”