Broken play seals Rangers win in OT
The Penguins played in their own territory far too often in the final two periods and in overtime against the Rangers.
It finally burned them.
A couple of icing infractions against the Penguins — they were not being pressured during these instances — ultimately gave the Rangers the opportunity they needed as rookie Kevin Hayes took advantage of a fortuitous bounce and beat the Penguins, 2-1, in Game 4 at Consol Energy Center.
“It’s hard to even say what happened,” left wing Nick Spaling said. “It was just a crazy scramble.”
The Penguins used an especially conservative game plan starting in the second period, rarely looking for breakout passes to jumpstart the offense, instead settling for chipping the puck out of their territory.
New York’s plan wasn’t much different, but the Rangers found themselves playing in Penguins’ territory almost exclusively in the first few minutes of overtime.
Defensemen Ben Lovejoy and Paul Martin were on the ice for the game-winner, and both had earlier committed icing infractions.
The Rangers’ first crack of daylight came when forward Martin St. Louis managed to get body position on Lovejoy behind the net.
Still, at that point, coach Mike Johnston was satisfied with what he saw. Johnston watched the play live and watched a video of the goal before addressing the media.
“They bumped the puck behind the net off the faceoff,” Johnston said. “They like to do that. Then St. Louis was there with the puck, and Lovejoy was right there with him. Our coverage was textbook. But then Lovejoy lost St. Louis for a brief second.”
After cutting off the puck and getting body position on Lovejoy, St. Louis cut to the net behind goalie Marc-Andre Fleury’s left shoulder.
“My job is to turn him back,” Lovejoy said.
In the Penguins’ system, defensive players in that situation are supposed to stop the puck carrier from cutting around the net at all costs.
Lovejoy, then, did his job and a forward was supposed to pick up St. Louis. But the forward quickly cut to the front of the net before anyone could deny him.
St. Louis floated a pass for left wing Carl Hagelin, who was unable to handle the pass cleanly. Hagelin then opted to fire the puck from a bad angle at Fleury, who was unable to get control of the puck.
“There was ping pong action,” Johnston said.
The Penguins surrounding the net stopped for a moment, as it appeared Fleury may have had the puck.
He did not.
“I never did,” Fleury said. “I could feel it slip through my arm.”
The series then may have slipped away as Hayes beat Martin to the loose puck and shot it past Fleury.
Forwards Max Lapierre, Spaling and Daniel Winnik — all defensive specialists — also were on the ice.
Until overtime, the Penguins had played a nearly flawless defensive game. The frequent icing and playing in their territory, however, was costly.
“It was a broken play,” Lovejoy said. “They were able to whack one in. When you’re on offense, good things happen.”