Expecting the unexpected is a wise move during the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Tuesday night was a perfect example of it. Players and fans alike must keep their heads on a swivel and adapt on the fly in the post-season and there were plenty of examples of why that is during Game 1 of the Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers series.
Suffice it to say the biggest example of a team adapting to unforeseen circumstances was the Penguins being forced to turn to their third-string goalie in the middle of their rollercoaster triple-overtime win.
Penguins starting netminder Casey DeSmith had made 48 saves in 89:07 of action before he limped off the ice midway through the second overtime period. Pittsburgh’s No. 1 goalie Tristan Jarry was already ruled out for Games 1 and 2, so it was Louis Domingue that dressed as Pittsburgh’s backup.
The 29-year-old journeyman puckstopper had been watching Game 1 from the corner of the rink (there wasn’t even room for him on the bench beside his teammates!) for roughly four hours before he was called into action.
Domingue, who has played on six different teams since 2017-18 and only played in two games for the Pens this season, might’ve looked shaky on a few saves but he stopped all nine shots he faced in the second OT stanza. He saved another eight in the game’s sixth period.
“I saw (DeSmith) go to the bench and I wasn’t sure why they blew the whistle,” Domingue said after earning his first payoff win. “I know both of the referees that were there, Jonny Murray and Frederick L’Ecuyer, both French guys. I honestly thought they were joking with me. They were saying I had to go in. After that, I just go out and played. It’s crazy, but I guess that’s my life. It’s hockey. … It was a lot coming at me fast, but it’s something you prepare for as a backup. You got to be ready at all times.”
Had the game not ended in Pittsburgh’s favour it would’ve been understandable considering the circumstances but altogether deflating for the road team.
The Rangers had a dominant first period by recording 19 hits and setting a physical tone. Ryan Reeves was knocking bodies to the ice regularly, Ryan Lindgren injured Rickard Rakell on a heavy hit, and even reigning Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox, who notched his first career playoff goal when he opened the scoring in the first, played with an edge, delivering a couple big hits and getting away with a crosscheck when he sent Jake Guentzel crashing into the boards as Rakell was laying on the ice.
Pittsburgh deserves full marks for this win based on how that opening 20 minutes unfolded. The health statuses of DeSmith and Rakell will be storylines heading into Thursday’s Game 2.
So will this: Should the game have gone into OT in the first place?
CROSBY’S UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT
Early on Tuesday I went to check out the new Nicolas Cage movie called The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent and as Day 2 of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs got underway it occurred to me that could also be a fitting title for a Sidney Crosby biography.
No. 87 suited up for his 175th career playoff game and his massive talents were on full display.
Crosby was his usual sublime self, assisting on his team’s first two goals for yet another multi-point playoff outing. Only Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier have registered more multi-point playoff games in NHL history.
The next-closest active skater on that list is Evgeni Malkin, who moved into sole possession of ninth place. Malkin now has 52 multi-point post-season outings after assisting on Bryan Rust’s second-period tally and tipping in the triple-OT game-winner.
Game 1 also officially marked the 16th consecutive season in which Crosby, Malkin and Kris Letang have embarked on a playoff journey as teammates.
Crosby recorded his 30th career multi-assist playoff game specifically. Those 30 such games rank sixth all-time behind Hockey Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Ray Bourque, Doug Gilmour and Paul Coffey.
His nifty backhand setup on Jake Guentzel’s second goal was filthy, disgusting, gross (or fill in your preferred adjective) and it silenced the Madison Square Garden crowd.
Crosby’s line was buzzing throughout all three overtime periods too and he showed off his magnificent hand-eye coordination late in the first OT period, swatting down a puck and feeding Guentzel, who narrowly missed what would have been his hat-trick goal.
Crosby’s two-point night also improved his career playoff points-per-game average that ranks fifth all-time among ever so slightly.
Most playoff points-per-game in NHL history (at least 150 GP):
1. Wayne Gretzky 1.84
2. Mark Messier 1.25
3. Jari Kurri 1.17
4. Peter Forsberg 1.13
5. Sidney Crosby 1.10
ROAD WARRIOR CAPITALS HELP PANTHERS BLOW LATE LEAD
The Florida Panthers haven’t won a post-season series since the franchise’s surprise trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996, which is the longest active playoff series-winning drought in the NHL. If this year’s edition of the Panthers hopes to end that streak, they’ll have to learn how to close out games like Game 1.
The Washington Capitals won 4-2 thanks to an empty-netter. Two-goal wins are rare when these teams meet. Eight of the past nine meetings between Florida and Washington prior to Game 1, including all three in the regular season this year, had been decided by one goal.
It was a discouraging result for a Florida team that went 39-0-1 in the regular season when leading after two periods. They were up 2-1 after 40 minutes on Tuesday.
The Capitals boast a roster chock full of players with championship experience and, although they’re underdogs against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Panthers in this series, the Caps had best road record in the NHL this season at 25-10-6 and made a statement with this comeback victory.
One positive sign for the Panthers was them getting back defenceman Aaron Ekblad, who had missed the last quarter of the regular season with a lower-body injury. Florida’s power play is noticeably better with Ekblad on the ice – they unsurprisingly produce more shot attempts, one-timers and goals with Ekblad out there for power plays compared to when he wasn’t during the season – but the team went 0-for-2 in Game 1 and Washington played disciplined.
“There’s no panic in the locker room whatsoever,” Sam Bennett, who nailed John Carlson with a high hit late in the game, said after the game. “Everyone’s still positive. We’ll learn from that game and move on. It’s a long series.”
There is a non-zero chance Bennett receives a call from the department of player safety for this hit, especially considering Bennett is a repeat offender when it comes to headshots.
AVS SET NEW NHL RECORD WHILE EMBARRASSING PREDS
The Colorado Avalanche were the odds-on favourites to come out of the Western Conference these playoffs and Tuesday’s performance was the perfect example why. Game 1 between the Avalanche and Nashville Predators was over before it even began.
Captain Gabriel Landeskog hadn’t played since March 10 but chipped in with one goal, one assist, five shots and six hits. In fact, all of Colorado’s star players were featured heavily on the scoresheet.
Nathan MacKinnon opened the scoring early in the first and added another in the third period, while Mikko Rantanen chipped in with his first-career three-assist playoff game.
The Avs became the first team in Stanley Cup Playoffs history to record an even-strength, power-play and short-handed goal within the first 10 minutes of a game. Preds netminder David Rittich was chased after allowing five goals on 13 shots and replaced by Connor Ingram.
This year’s leading Norris Trophy contender, Cale Makar, scored an early contender for goal of the playoffs when he did this…
Game 2 is on Thursday. Good luck, Nashville.