By: Nick Lanciani
Patric Hornqvist tallied a hat trick in the midst of a 4-point night and 5-2 victory for the Pittsburgh Penguins over the New York Rangers in Game 1 of their 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Quarterfinals matchup. Antti Raanta suffered the loss for the Rangers, having made 16 saves on 19 shots for a .842 SV% in 39:54 time on ice.
Wednesday night’s action was Jeff Zatkoff’s first career NHL playoff appearance and first career Stanley Cup Playoff win. He made 35 saves on 37 shots on goal for a .946 SV%. Zatkoff had a .896 SV% in his last five appearances during the regular season, dating back to January 18th. He took to the ice for warmups with Tristan Jarry as his backup as Marc-Andre Fleury was unavailable due to his ongoing recovery from a concussion.
New York Rangers goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, was injured late in the 1st period, after receiving a stick in the eye from his teammate and defenseman, Marc Staal. Lundqvist stayed in the game until the end of the period and made 10 saves on 11 shots against for a .909 SV% through 20 minutes.
During this final minute of play in the first, Patric Hornqvist (1) went hard to the net and received a pass from Conor Sheary (1) and sent the puck past Lundqvist to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead with 17.6 seconds to go in the period. Kris Letang (1) picked up the secondary assist on the goal.
The second period was similar in nature to the first period in that both teams swapped a couple of power play opportunities. Pittsburgh’s special teams weren’t able to capitalize on consecutive penalties to Rangers forwards, Chris Kreider and Dominic Moore, at nine seconds into the period and at 10:02, respectively. Meanwhile, New York’s power play was powerless on Trevor Daley’s tripping penalty with 8:14 to go in the 2nd.
At 18:56 of the second period, Sidney Crosby snapped a quick wrist shot past Raanta on a breakaway to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead. Crosby’s first goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs was assisted by Hornqvist (1).
After forty, the Penguins were leading 2-0 on the scoreboard, but trailing 21-18 in shots on goal to the Raners.
Pittsburgh began the third period playing a little catch-up hockey after amassing six penalty minutes just 2:08 into the period. Karl Hagelin was given a four minute double minor penalty for high sticking Rangers forward, Kevin Hayes, while Pittsburgh defenseman, Ian Cole, was sent to the box with a two minute minor for interfering with Eric Staal in front of Zatkoff.
New York was quick to capitalize on their 5-on-3 advantage, with Derek Stepan scooping up a power play goal on the rebound and cut the Penguins lead in half. Stepan’s first of the playoffs was assisted by Rick Nash (1) and Derick Brassard (1). But the Penguins were quick to answer back in a hurry, notching a short-handed goal scored by Tom Kuhnhackl (1) on a two-on-one from Nick Bonino (1) and Kris Letang (2). The goal was Kuhnhackl’s first career Stanley Cup playoff goal and gave Pittsburgh a 3-1 lead.
Patric Hornqvist followed up with a power play goal at 8:02 of the third period with his second of the night, assisted by Phil Kessel (1) and Sidney Crosby (1). Hornqvist poked the puck into the net before Raanta could figure out that it had slid behind him and gave the Penguins a 4-1 lead. Rangers head coach, Alain Vigneault, used his coach’s challenge to review the goal for goaltender interference, but the call on the ice was upheld after Hornqvist had clearly allowed Raanta a chance to play the puck.
With lots of time left in regulation, Stepan netted his second of the night at 10:11 of the third, pulling the Rangers to within two once again. Dan Boyle picked up an assist on the goal. New York had been outshooting Pittsburgh 34-27 at the time of Stepan’s goal to trail 4-2.
Finaly, Patric Hornqvist completed his first career playoff hat trick with under three minutes to go in regulation on an empty net goal. The goal was assisted by Crosby and Trevor Daley. Hornqvist became the first Penguins player to score a hat trick in the team’s playoff opener and the first player to do so for any team since Alexander Mogilny did so with the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 9, 2003, per the NHL’s public relations department.
After 60 minutes of play, the Pittsburgh Penguins rejoiced in a 5-2 win and a 1-0 series lead over the New York Rangers.
This is the seventh time- third straight season in a row- that the Rangers and the Penguins have met in the postseason. New York was 1-2-1 in four games against Pittsburgh during the regular season. Having earned their only win in a 3-0 shutout by Henrik Lundqvist on February 10 at CONSOL Energy Center.
Game 2 is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at 3:00 PM EST in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and can be seen on NBC, before the series heads up to Madison Square Garden on Tuesday for Game 3.