- Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.
Artemi Panarin’s power-play goal at 4:46 of overtime gave the New York Rangers a 4-3 win in Game 7, eliminating the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday night.
The Rangers will face the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round, the first time New York has advanced past the first round since 2017.
The Penguins were seeking a second-round appearance for the first time since 2018. The loss could mark the end of their veteran core’s time together, as center Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang are free agents this summer.
Goalie Igor Shesterkin made 42 saves. Forward Mika Zibanejad had a goal and two assists. The Rangers’ power play, which ranked fourth-best in the NHL and powered the team during the regular season, was the difference-maker in overtime.
Penguins forward Brock McGinn took a holding penalty on K’Andre Miller just 2:55 into overtime. After pressuring the Penguins, Panarin’s shot from the right side beat Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry for the overtime winner.
The Penguins saw their lineup replenished for Game 7. Captain Sidney Crosby, who left with an upper-body injury during Game 5 and didn’t play in Game 6 — both Rangers victories — returned to the ice. So did forward Rickard Rakell, who had been absent since suffering an injury in Game 1. The most dramatic return was that of regular-season starting goalie Jarry, who hadn’t played since April 14 after breaking his foot.
The Rangers took a 1-0 lead 7:36 into the first period. After Shesterkin made a couple of saves on point-blank chances, a Danton Heinen turnover led to Zibanejad and Chris Kreider sprinting out on a 2-on-1. Zibanejad sent a pass across the zone and Kreider blasted the puck past Jarry’s glove from the right faceoff circle.
The Penguins were the beneficiary of four Rangers penalties in the first period, which included a double-minor for high-sticking on Jacob Trouba — the defenseman whose hit knocked Crosby out of Games 5 and 6.
It was on the second of those Trouba penalties that the Penguins tied the game on a bizarre sequence. Jeff Carter shot the puck at the Rangers’ net, where it appeared Heinen knocked it past Shesterkin. Two Penguins players raised their sticks in celebration. But play continued for another 27 seconds until a horn sounded to indicate the league had reviewed the play and spotted a goal.
The Pittsburgh bench started celebrating and pointing to the roof for a review. Replays showed that the puck crossed the line before Rangers defenseman Adam Fox could sweep it away.
The first period ended with the game tied 1-1. The Penguins took the lead with 9:42 left in the second period on a controversial video review. With Kaapo Kakko in the box for a delay of game penalty, Pittsburgh forward Jake Guentzel took a Bryan Rust pass, kicked the puck to his stick and deflected it over Shesterkin’s glove with his stick high in the air for a goal.
Apparently, not too high: After a video review, it was determined that the call on the ice would stand. According to the NHL Situation Room, “video review confirmed that Jake Guentzel’s stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he directed the puck into the Rangers net.”
But that advantage was short-lived. Just 1:05 later, Miller shot a puck off of defenseman Mike Matheson’s skate and in behind a diving Jarry to tie the game at 2-2.
The Rangers had another chance on their power play, which had scored on three of its past six opportunities entering the game. But it was the Penguins who would score their third special-teams goal of the game. A misplay by Trouba and a turnover by forward Filip Chytil allowed Evan Rodrigues to spring for a short-handed breakaway. He swept a one-handed backhand shot past Shesterkin for the 3-2 lead with 2:36 left in the second period.
It was a moment of redemption for Rodrigues. He was called out by coach Mike Sullivan after Game 6 for taking a retaliation penalty with the Penguins up 2-0, which sparked the Rangers’ comeback win.
It was a critical goal for many reasons, not the least being the Penguins’ ability to close games. Including the playoffs, Pittsburgh was 33-1-2 when leading after two periods; the Rangers were 4-20-2 when trailing after two periods.
Jarry continued his strong play in the third, including a critical stop on Rangers forward Tyler Motte on a short-handed breakaway. But the Rangers tied the game on a Zibanejad goal with 5:45 left in regulation.
The Penguins bench was upset on the play, as defenseman Marcus Pettersson had his helmet ripped off by Rangers forward Alexis Lafreniere behind the net. The game went to overtime, where Panarin won it.
The Rangers have played the Carolina Hurricanes franchise in the playoffs only once, including its years as the Hartford Whalers. New York lost in the qualifying round of the 2020 “bubble” playoffs 3-0 to the Hurricanes — a series that included Shesterkin’s playoff debut.
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