Rangers suffer crushing triple overtime loss to Penguins in Game 1

Despite Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith exiting with an apparent injury and bringing in a cold Louis Domingue in the second OT, Pittsburgh still emerged with a 4-3 win and a 1-0 lead in the series after Evgeni Malkin deflected in a shot from the point just under six minutes into the third extra period.

Much earlier, the Rangers and the Madison Square Garden crowd collectively held their breath, staring up at the Jumbotron as the potential game-deciding goal went under review.

Kaapo Kakko had just willed himself to the Penguins net and made significant contact with DeSmith with help from Pittsburgh defenseman Brian Dumoulin, before backhanding a pass while he was falling to Filip Chytil for the wide-open goal that would’ve broken a 3-3 tie in the Rangers’ favor with just over three minutes left in regulation.

It was an easy decision for Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan to challenge for goaltending inference.

Evgeni Malkin (No. 71) celebrates after scoring the game-winning in triple overtime of the Rangers' 4-3 loss to the Penguins.
Evgeni Malkin (No. 71) celebrates after scoring the game-winning in triple overtime of the Rangers’ 4-3 loss to the Penguins.
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And as referee Chris Lee skated to center ice, proclaimed “no goal,” the Garden fans showed their displeasure. The boos hurled down from the blue seats and blanketed the ice in disappointment.

The first Stanley Cup playoff game at MSG since May 9, 2017 was headed to overtime. And then double overtime, the first at the Garden since April 20, 2011. And then first triple overtime since Game 3 of the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinal.

It looked as though a different Rangers team took the ice in the second period.

After they dominated the Penguins at every crevice of the Garden ice through the opening 20 minutes, which resulted in a 1-0 lead for the home team, the Rangers doubled their score early on in the second period. Ryan Strome fed Andrew Copp for the one-timer in the slot at 3:08.

The Rangers' Adam Fox celebrates with his teammates after scoring a goal during the first period of Game 1 against the Penguins.
Adam Fox celebrates with his teammates after scoring a goal during the first period of Game 1 against the Penguins.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

From then on, it was all Pittsburgh. The Rangers lost the jump that they had in the first and relinquished any hold they had on the pace of the game. Penguins star Sidney Crosby played a big part in the drastic shift, as one would expect.

Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin, who finished with a franchise record 79 saves in his first legitimate playoff game, got over in time to rob Kris Letang shortly after Copp’s goal. But the Penguins worked the puck around again and Jake Guentzel buried an easy tap in all alone in front to cut the Rangers’ lead 2-1.

Crosby then sent an effortless backhanded leading pass for Guentzel, who knot the game at two all with his second of the night at 8:13 of the middle frame.

Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin makes a save during the second period of Game 1 against the Penguins.
Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin makes a save during the second period.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

The Rangers struggled to maintain puck possession and it showed in the back-to-back penalties they took. With Patrik Nemeth in box for his second penalty of the game, however, Mika Zibanejad pushed the puck up the ice before dishing to Chris Kreider for a gorgeous shorthanded goal that he finished on his backhand to make it a 3-2 game at 17:07.

When Jacob Trouba was called for boarding Guentzel roughly 40 seconds later, the Penguins earned a five-on-three advantage for 44 seconds. A tic-tac-toe passing sequence from Pittsburgh led to Bryan Rust evening the score once again with 1:30 left in the second period.

The Rangers were in high gear through the first period, hitting every Penguin in sight and putting forth a relentless forecheck that left the visitors with no choice but to dump and chase. Penguins defenseman John Marino may have needed an ice bath during the first intermission considering how many massive hits he absorbed.

The Penguins' Bryan Rust celebrates with his teammates after scoring a goal past Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin during the second period of Game 1.
The Penguins’ Bryan Rust celebrates with his teammates after scoring a goal past Igor Shesterkin.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Alexis Lafreniere ran through Marino to get things started on his first shift. And the Garden crowd began humming in anticipation any time Ryan Reaves closed in on a Penguins player.

The Rangers seemed to feed off of it. After Teddy Bleuger was called for slashing at 8:58 to give the Rangers the first power play of the night, Adam Fox wristed one through traffic from the top of the zone for the 1-0 lead.

The Rangers’ heavy play culminated near the end of the opening frame when Ryan Lindgren upended Pittsburgh’s trade-deadline acquisition Rickard Rakell, who was slow to get up and then remained in the locker room for the rest of the game. Lindgren was first assessed a major penalty, but it was reduced to two minutes and the Penguins couldn’t capitalize on the power play.

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