Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers - 5/13/14
New York Rangers (45-31-6) at Pittsburgh Penguins (51-24-7)
NHL Hockey: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 7:00 pm (Consol Energy Centre)
The Line: Pittsburgh Penguins -162 / New York Rangers +147 --- Over/Under: 5 See the Latest Odds
After another spirited effort on Sunday night the New York Rangers have staved off elimination once again and forced a Game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night. New York looked as good as dead after losing two straight on home ice, the second of which put them behind 3-1 in the series after a game where they only managed to generate 15 shots on goal. Instead of folding up for the summer the Rangers fought back and played their best game of the series in Pittsburgh on Friday night. Sunday night they picked up right where they left off. Martin St. Louis has been the story since Thursday when his mother passed away, and on Mother's Day he opened the scoring by going hard to the net and getting a lucky bounce off his pads to beat Marc-Andre Fleury and give New York a 1-0 lead. Just a few minutes later it was Carl Hagelin converting on a backhand shot that Fleury should have stopped easily. Though it was early and only 2-0 there was a feeling inside Madison Square Garden that the Rangers would not be denied on this night. To their credit the Penguins were able to generate chances. Brandon Sutter was credited with a goal after it deflected in off Kevin Klein's skate, and the Penguins had life heading into the first intermission. It wasn't for lack of trying that the Penguins failed to even this game up, it was just that Henrik Lundqvist continued his stellar play. Lundqvist faced shots from all angles but after allowing the late first period goal he shut the door for good. Derick Brassard scored for the Rangers just after a Penguins power play expired to give New York the 3-1 win they would eventually win by. Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for a decisive game between two clubs that have been pretty evenly matched thus far.
After New York won the opening game of this series they laid an egg in Game 2, with only their goaltender showing up for the contest. The Rangers followed that up with one of their best performances of the series in Game 3, but they couldn't solve Fleury. Game 4 was a disaster for New York but it was the best defensive performance we saw all series long from the Penguins. Pittsburgh has really frustrated the Rangers when they've gotten an early lead and been able to set up the trap in the neutral zone. Dan Bylsma might be wise to start implementing this before he allows New York to take a lead. It goes against everything that would seem to make sense when you've got players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on your club, but with how this series has gone the Penguins might be better off going in that direction. There's no question that the Penguins are the better team in this series but with their recent collapses and so much pressure riding on this one game it's hard to see a favorite on Tuesday. Bylsma knows that his job is on the line. Crosby knows that his reputation as the best player in the league is on the line. There will be many changes coming in Pittsburgh if this team blows a 3-1 series lead and bows out in the second round. The Rangers have all the momentum, but as we've seen in these playoffs that momentum is only as good as your next shift to start the next game. New York has found their transition game and that has caused a lot of problems for the Pittsburgh defense, specifically Rob Scuderi and Robert Bortuzzo. Chris Kreider's return to the lineup has given the Rangers an added dimension. Kreider is able to open up space on the ice for everyone because of his speed, and his size and physicality does wonders around the net and improves the power play. This game will come down to which of these teams is able to play their game.
USA TODAY Sports
Out of all the games in this series this one is definitely the most difficult to predict. Teams that play on home ice have a decisive advantage in Game 7's but the Penguins have been awful in this situation. Bylsma has not been able to get his club to close out series since they won the Stanley Cup in 2009. Still, the Penguins are the better team and they are on home ice with their crowd supporting them. New York needs to generate the type of start that we saw in the last two games. The Rangers set the tone from the very first shift, got early goals in both games, and built on it from there. Pittsburgh recognizes that they need to have a better start and if they're able to do that it should help them forget these last two contests quickly. The team that has scored first has won every game in this series and there's no reason to think that won't be the case on Tuesday. The oddsmakers are heavy on the Penguins but this one looks like a toss up at best.