For the Rangers and their most loyal fans, last night’s 5-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins was as tough as they come and now they trail three games to none in their best of seven series. History tells us that this is one predicament not easily overcome. In all professional sports, only three times has a team recovered from being down by such a margin. It has happened twice in the NHL and once in major league baseball.
Again, the Penguins proved to be the faster team and the one with a far better power-play unit. Surprisingly though, it was the goaltending differential that made the biggest impact. The Rangers had numerous chances to score and outshot their opponent significantly, but Henrik Lundqvist just couldn’t come up with that big save he has done so many times before.
Without question, the critical moment of the game was the incredibly stupid boarding penalty assessed to Ryan Hollweg in the third period when the Blueshirts were storming about after having just evened the score. Pittsburgh, unlike the Rangers, took advantage of the mistake and scored the game-winning goal on the ensuing power-play. And that, in a nutshell, is why they will be on their way to the conference finals shortly.
Every time the Rangers erred, the Pens have taken advantage, thus far. Their power-play has been awesome and the Blueshirts cant’ find an answer for that. Yes, there was another fortunate carom for the Penguins when Georges Laraque scored in the first, but the Rangers rallied from a 3-1 deficit to tie the game before Hollweg lost his mind.
Game Four is Thursday night at the Garden and it will be interesting to see how much pride the Rangers have. Aside from their almost insurmountable task, they suffered injuries to Blair Betts and Chris Drury late in the game, so winning just one game in this series against a very healthy and confident team may be too much to ask. On a positive note, Jaromir Jagr has been playing his most inspired hockey of the season. Too bad that hasn’t trickled down to many of his teammates. By the way, has anybody seen Sean Avery the past three games?