PITTSBURGH – All the Rangers could do was tap goalkeeper Igor Shesterkin’s podiums as he slid off the ice at the PPG Bents Arena to echo his taunts after giving up six goals for the Penguins before the second break of Game Four Monday night.
The team just ahead of them proved what many have said of their unprecedented success throughout the regular season: Rangers are not the club they’ve appeared at without Chesterkin.
It was ugly. It was humiliating. It was a heavy 7-2 loss to Sidney Crosby and the Penguins that sent the Rangers back to New York, licking their wounds and facing elimination in Game Five on Wednesday. The Blues now have the nearly impossible task of winning in a row to have any chance of advancing from the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Shesterkin was pulled for the second game in a row after Pittsburgh exploded for five goals in the middle frame. Defensive breakdowns were many. The guards were chasing everything. There was no structure or control or anything they could do to limit Crosby, who went on to hit the Rangers with a three-point performance in the form of a goal and two passes.
Throughout the regular season, the Vezina Cup favorites have been fantastic at their outings after the loss, going 10-1-1 with 0.931 save percentages, 2.08 goal-for-average and two nets. Shesterkin wasn’t able to capitalize on that in Pittsburgh, as Penguins fans made it the mission of their lives to hunt down the Rangers goalkeeper.
In games 1 and 2 at home, Shesterkin conceded six goals on 124 shots in 165:39. In matches 3 and 4 on the road, Shesterkin conceded 10 goals from 45 shots in 63:38.
Rangers were supposed to have a huge goal advantage over the Penguins, as rookie Tristan Jarry fell at the end of the regular season with a broken foot and was unable to play in the series. And when their reserve Casey DeSmith went out in the second overtime of Game 1 and finally underwent surgery on his core muscles, the advantage should have become even more pronounced.
Instead, the Rangers allowed 3rd Pittsburgh striker Luis Domingo to overpower them. Domingu has collected 54 saves against Rangers in the past two matches.
Pittsburgh received goals from seven different players, as the PPG Paints Arena crowd celebrated the wave in the third inning.
Rangers were fit enough in the first period to get out with the match tied 1-1. Alexis Lavrinier opened the scoring just two minutes later, when he cut the ball past Domingo after rising defender Braden Schneider kept the ball in the attack area and made contact with the 20-year-old winger.
The Penguins’ first-period equalizer came over another – you guessed it – a controversial call that should be subject to review. With defender Patrick Nemeth in the box for the team’s fourth leading penalty kick in the series, Crosby jammed the disc into a powerful Penguins, but it was hard to see where the disc was.
Officials considered the disc to cross the goal line and the goal was backed by a 1-1 score at 11:17 of the first half. Crosby’s star-studded goal tied longtime Penguin Kevin Stevens to third on the franchise’s all-time playoff goalscorer list with 20.