PITTSBURGH -- Rallying behind Martin St. Louis, who played Friday night after the death of his mother just one day prior, the New York Rangers avoided elimination with a decisive 5-1 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 5.
Derick Brassard tallied two goals, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was razor-sharp, the power-play scored (twice!) and the Rangers played with the type of urgency and desperation that allowed them to force a Game 6 on Sunday back home at Madison Square Garden with the series now at 3-2.
Penguins star Evgeni Malkin did his best to put the team on his shoulders and single-handedly force Pittsburgh back into the game -- he charged right through two Rangers defenders for a highlight-reel goal in the second period -- but the Rangers were able to squash the Penguins' surges at key points throughout the match.
And you can bet the Marc-Andre Fleury questions will resurface after he gave up four goals Friday despite the 29-year-old netminder posting back-to-back shutouts earlier in the series.
Big game for Brassard: Save for an unwise slashing penalty on Malkin at the end of the second period, Brassard delivered a fine performance Friday night with a pair of goals. Backhanding the puck past Fleury in the first frame, Brassard allowed the Rangers to reclaim a two-goal lead in the second period. Production from Brassard’s line, which includes Benoit Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello has been huge for the Blueshirts, particularly given the struggles of the team’s star players Rick Nash, Brad Richards and St. Louis.
Slump snapped: The Rangers entered Friday’s action without a goal in their past 36 attempts, when a slump that spanned nine games was halted by Chris Kreider, who buried a rebound for a 1-0 Rangers lead at 9:36 in the first period. Kreider, who returned to the Rangers lineup in Game 4 after missing 19 games with a fractured left hand, showed why his net-front presence was so sorely missed during his absence. Before his goal, he made a nice diving play on the man advantage, a sputtering unit that has at least seemed a lot less stagnant with Kreider in the mix. The Rangers went on to score another man-up marker in the second period, with defenseman Ryan McDonagh’s first goal of the playoffs, a slap shot from the right point. McDonagh has been uncharacteristically disappointing this series but was able to chip in offensively with a big goal Friday night.