The New York Rangers are home favorites against the Penguins on Wednesday night, but they’ll need to improve in a hurry if they want to win their first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series against Pittsburgh.
DraftKings Sportsbook sees New York as a -135 favorite in the critical Game 5, as the Rangers trail 3-1 in the series.
Penguins pepper Shesterkin in Pittsburgh
That makes the Penguins the clear pick to advance. DraftKings lists Pittsburgh as the -650 choice to get past New York (+475), as it needs just one win in three games to go through to the second round.
The one advantage the Rangers hold is that two of the final three games will be at Madison Square Garden. However, they’ll need to solidify their defensive efforts if they stand any chance of getting back in the series.
2 GOALS. 24 SECONDS.
THE PENGUINS ARE MARCHING! 🐧#StanleyCup | #LetsGoPens pic.twitter.com/x4hMwE6LsL
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 10, 2022
The Penguins won Game 3 by a 7-2 final, then took a 7-4 victory in Game 4. In total, Vezina Trophy finalist Igor Shesterkin gave up 10 goals on just 45 shots over three periods of play in the two games in Pittsburgh, with New York pulling him early both times.
The Rangers haven’t blamed Shesterkin for the dismal defensive performance. Players agree that everyone needs to be better from top to bottom.
“You can’t get anywhere without your top guys, but in the NHL and in the playoffs, you can’t get anywhere without an entire four-line, six-D effort,” Rangers center Ryan Strome told reporters. “So I think everyone, especially from last game, can be better. There’s no doubt about that. But if we’re gonna win, if we’re gonna win [Wednesday] night and we’re going to shift the momentum here, it’s going to take every guy in our lineup.”
Third-line youngsters keeping New York alive
New York has enjoyed some bright spots. While the Penguins’ stars have outperformed the Rangers’ best players, the third line of Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil, and Kaapo Kakko has been great throughout the series. And Shesterkin excelled in the first two home games, allowing just six goals on 124 total shots.
Still, the Penguins have been in control of the series from the start. They’ve won faceoffs and maintained consistent offensive pressure that’s kept the Rangers on their back heels.
“We’re just trying to play on our toes, play in their face,” Penguins forward Bryan Rust told reporters. “The ability to play fast with and without the puck have put us in some pretty good situations.”
Pittsburgh acknowledges that it faces a tough task at Madison Square Garden, however. The Rangers came into the series as a slight favorite – they finished second in the Metropolitan Division, seven points ahead of the Penguins – and beat the Penguins three out of four times in the regular season. In other words, Pittsburgh must remain up to the task, no matter how the series has played out so far.
“The Rangers have been a really good team all year,” Rust said. “They’ve done some really good things and this is a really hard building to play in.”