NEW YORK — Cutting to the quick, the Pittsburgh Penguins did not play well enough against the New York Rangers in the regular season. New York beat the Penguins in three of four games, and the Penguins’ only win was a Tristan Jarry theft, 1-0. Otherwise, New York established superior speed, forecheck, and worst for the Penguins’ hopes, finishing ability.
As the Penguins noted all week leading to Game 1, the playoffs are a different animal.
For a moment, it appeared that was warhorse bluster. Or, more specifically, horse apples. The Rangers outclassed the Penguins in the first period. New York wailed on the Penguins like a boxer lining up a sparring partner.
New York outhit the Penguins 19-10 and led 1-0. Many of those 19 were powerful hits, and the Rangers controlled play.
New York took advantage of more Penguins sloppiness at the beginning of the second period for a 2-0 lead.
And then…then…Sidney Crosby. The Penguins chalkboard suddenly had two sides, including the offensive zone. Those dump-ins that were wasted possessions became scoring chances.
And Sidney Crosby.
Even though the game kept going and going into the third overtime, Crosby’s push in the second period should be one of those moments that old men on barstools talk about years from now. The Penguins core, and the team, were hanging by a thread until Crosby came to the rescue.
And everything changed, including, most importantly, the Penguins’ thinking to claim a 1-0 series lead.