PITTSBURGH – So much for the talk a team as young as the Pittsburgh Penguins couldn’t advance this far in the playoffs. So much for the speculation Marian Hossa couldn’t score big post-season goals.
So much for the New York Rangers, too, whose decided edge in experience meant nothing in a five-game series in which the Penguins’ superior talent repeatedly made the difference.
Hossa scored his second goal of the game 7:10 into overtime and the Penguins rallied after giving up a two-goal lead to beat the Rangers 3-2 on Sunday and advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in seven years.
Sidney Crosby began a rush into the Penguins end with a pass to Pascal Dupuis, who attempted to give it back to Crosby. The puck trickled away but ended up on Hossa’s stick, and he beat Henrik Lundqvist from the slot for his fifth of the playoffs to end New York’s season. The Penguins won the second-round series 4-1.
“Sid was driving hard to the net and it kind of bounced off him and the puck just came up to me, and I just tried to shoot at the net – and it was a lucky one,” Hossa said.
The Penguins, the conference’s worst team two years ago, will meet the cross-state Philadelphia Flyers, the conference’s worst team last season, in the first all-Pennsylvania conference final. The teams haven’t met in the post-season since the Flyers’ six-game victory in a 2000 second-round series best remembered for Philadelphia’s five-overtime win in Game 4, which occurred eight years to the day Sunday.
“You want a rivalry, there’s one right there,” Crosby said of the oft-contentious season series in which Philadelphia won five of eight during the regular season. “It doesn’t get any easier.”
Hossa had only 13 goals in 55 playoff games before these playoffs, and general manager Ray Shero was asked repeatedly if he worried about that lack of production when he picked up Hossa and Dupuis from Atlanta at the trading deadline several months ago.
“For a guy that’s been criticized and known for not scoring big goals in the playoffs when it’s clutch time, obviously he scored an unbelievably big goal,” Dupuis said.
Make that two goals. There was a bit of a revenge factor as Hossa and Dupuis were with Atlanta last year when the Rangers swept the Thrashers in the first round.
“I had some bad playoffs and I had some good playoffs, I can’t control what other people say about my playoff performance,” Hossa said. “I always try and I’m on a great team right now, and I can just enjoy the ride.”
The Rangers, down 2-0 but desperate to swing the series back to New York for what would have been a Game 6 on Monday, got back into the game by scoring twice in less than 90 seconds to tie it early in the third.
Lauri Korpikoski, a 2004 first-round draft pick playing his first NHL game on a hunch by coach Tom Renney, scored 2:03 into the period with only the second Rangers shot in nearly 17 minutes. Michal Rozsival, partly making up for his three penalties in the second period, got the first assist.
Given life in a game – and a season – that was beginning to look lost, the Rangers came back to tie it against goalie Marc-Andre Fleury 1:22 later as Nigel Dawes scored on a backhander off Scott Gomez’s setup while cutting across the slot.
The turnaround appeared to stun the Penguins, who have four key players who are 23 or younger, after a dominating second period in which they outshot the Rangers 17-4 and held them without a shot for nearly 15 minutes.
The pivotal moment of that period may have been when New York’s Chris Drury was unintentionally clipped and bloodied by Penguins forward Ryan Malone’s stick in front of the Pittsburgh net only 92 seconds into the period. Both benches seemed to expect a four-minute high-sticking penalty – play was stopped briefly to clean up the blood – but there was no call.
There was one when Drury drew a high-sticking double minor, against Malone no less, in the final two minutes of regulation. The Rangers killed off a power play that carried over into the overtime, but the Penguins used the momentum they regained by constantly pressing with the man advantage to get Hossa’s game-winner a few minutes later.
“It wasn’t the best feeling after being ahead 2-0, to give up two goals and go to overtime, but it was important to get it together mentally,” Malkin said through an interpreter. “We went to the locker room (before the overtime) and everybody had a great feeling.”
Jaromir Jagr, who had 15 points in two rounds, didn’t get a goal in perhaps his last game for New York. He said afterward, “I know I’m going to play somewhere (next season) – I still feel I’ve got many years left if I decide to work at it.”
Jagr was a force throughout the game, drawing three of the first four penalties against Pittsburgh after getting three goals in the previous two games, but couldn’t score.
“We were facing a very good hockey club, they’ve got young legs playing without fear,” Jagr said. “They didn’t get tired – I thought they were going to get tired and they didn’t get tired. They keep coming, keep coming.”
Hossa and Malkin gave Pittsburgh its 2-0 lead by scoring about four minutes apart during a second period in which Pittsburgh had four power plays.
“We got ourselves into trouble again with penalties and there were some momentum swings because of that,” Renney said. “We were unable to manage that. It’s disappointing.”
Notes: The Rangers were 0-for-4 and the Penguins were 1-for-7 on the power play. … This is the first time in club history the Penguins have won their first five home playoff games. They have won their past 13 home games overall. … Lundqvist made 37 saves to Fleury’s 20. … The Rangers went 0-2 in overtime this spring. … New York is 0-4 in playoff series against Pittsburgh.