HomeSportsCrosby exits early as Rangers pot a pair in final frame to...

Crosby exits early as Rangers pot a pair in final frame to top Penguins

Filip Chytil scored the tie-breaking goal early in the third period and the New York Rangers staved off elimination with a 5-3 victory over the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series Wednesday night.

Jacob Trouba and Alexis Lafreniere each had a goal and an assist, and Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren also scored for the Rangers. Igor Shesterkin, torched for 10 goals over three periods in the previous two games, had 27 saves.

Jake Guentzel had two goals and Kris Letang also scored for Pittsburgh, which leads the best of seven series 3-2. Evgeni Malkin had two assists and Louis Domingue finished with 29 saves.

Penguins star Sidney Crosby left with about seven minutes remaining in the second period with an apparent injury and didn’t return.

Game 6 is Friday in Pittsburgh, and a potential deciding Game 7 would be Sunday back at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers got their first power play of the night early in the third period and took advantage as Chytil got a pass from Lafreniere in the right circle, turned around and whipped a shot past Domingue to put the Rangers ahead 4-3 at 2:53.

Pittsburgh pulled Domingue for an extra skater with about 1 1/2 minutes remaining. He returned briefly 20 seconds later during a stoppage in play and left the ice again. Lindgren sealed the win with an empty-netter with 16 seconds left.

With the Penguins leading 1-0 after 20 minutes, Pittsburgh’s Mike Matheson hit a goalpost 3 1/2 minutes into the second period. Domingue then made saves a minute later on a shot by Artemi Panarin and a tip try by Lindgren. The goalie also stopped a slap shot by Trouba and a follow by Panarin two minutes later.

Letang made it 2-0 at 7:58 as he got a cross-ice pass from Malkin and fired a slap shot past Shesterkin on Pittsburgh’s first shot on goal of the period.

The Rangers then took the lead as they scored on three consecutive shots in a 2:42 span late in the second.

Fox got the Rangers on the scoreboard with 4:49 left as he got the puck inside the blue line, slowly skated up and fired a shot from the top of the right circle past Domingue’s shoulder.

Lafreniere tied it 90 seconds later as he quickly fired a slap shot in front off a centring pass from Kaapo Kakko.

Trouba put the Rangers ahead another 1:12 later as he skated across the right circle and put a backhander from the middle through Domingue’s skates.

The lead lasted just 13 seconds as Guentzel tied it with his second of the night and seventh of the series as he scored off a centering pass from Malkin.

The Rangers outshot the Penguins 11-10 in the first period, limited mostly to shots from the outside.

The Penguins had a 5-on-3 power play early when Chris Kreider was called for slashing and Jacob Trouba for elbowing just 24 seconds into the game. The Rangers held them just two shots on goal during the advantage, with Shesterkin making a nice glove save on Guentzel.

The Penguins took a 1-0 lead with 9 1/2 minutes left as Guentzel got the rebound of his own shot and sent a centring pass from behind the goal line that deflected off Shesterkin’s leg and in. It was his sixth goal of the series.

Panthers rally to top Capitals

Carter Verhaeghe set a Florida postseason record with a five-point night, and the Florida Panthers escaped a three-goal deficit to beat the Washington Capitals 5-3 and take a 3-2 lead in an Eastern Conference first-round series Wednesday night.

Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 28 shots for Florida, which trailed 3-0 in the second period. Verhaeghe had two goals and three assists for the Panthers.

Patric Hornqvist, Claude Giroux and Sam Reinhart also scored for the Panthers, and Aleksander Barkov had two assists.

T.J. Oshie scored twice for Washington, which also got a goal from Justin Schultz and two assists from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Ilya Samsonov stopped 33 shots.

Verhaeghe broke the Panthers’ playoff scoring record that Ray Sheppard set on a four-point night back on April 22, 1996 — which remains the last, and only, season in which the Panthers won a playoff series.

They can change that Friday, when Game 6 is played in Washington. Game 7, if necessary, would be back at Florida on Sunday.

Verhaeghe gave the Panthers their only lead at 3:04 of the third, after a pair of marvellous plays at both ends. He created a turnover deep in the zone, sent the puck to Barkov and then went into a full sprint for about 100 feet of ice to find a spot to receive the return pass.

Barkov put it on his stick, Verhaeghe put it into the net, and Florida led 4-3. Bobrovsky slammed the door from there, Giroux scored the insurance goal at 15:55, and the Comeback Cats had done it again.

This was the season of the comeback for Florida, which had an NHL-best 29 come-from-behind wins during the regular season. The Panthers pulled off five wins after trailing by three goals, and rallied in the final moments of Game 4 to force overtime in Washington before winning early in the extra session and tying the series.

Florida’s rally matched the largest in an NHL playoff game since April 19, 2011, when the San Jose Sharks erased a four-goal deficit to beat the Los Angeles Kings 6-5. There had been three two-goal deficits in these playoffs entering Wednesday, but nobody had successfully dug out of a three-goal hole.

Florida’s last 3-2 series lead was a decade ago, the 2012 first round against New Jersey. The Panthers lost Games 6 and 7, the finale at home in double overtime — part of the 26-years-and-counting drought that has dogged this franchise.

This team was assembled to change fortunes. For the first half of Wednesday, it didn’t look good on that front.

Oshie opened the scoring at 7:09 of the first, doing what he probably does best — redirection. He set up in the slot, obstructing Bobrovsky as best he could, then changed the flight of a shot by John Carlson just enough to get it into the net for a 1-0 Washington lead.

It stayed that way until the second, when two goals in a span of 1:25 looked to give Washington full control. Schultz found a crease within a maze of bodies in front of the net and blasted the puck through to make it 2-0, and Oshie finished off a pass from Kuznetsov on a 2-on-1 break to make it 3-0.

And that’s when the Panthers did what they do best — rally.

In a span of 7:51, Florida went from down three and in huge trouble to tied going into the third. Verhaeghe watched the puck come off the end boards and batted it in to get Florida on the scoreboard. Hornqvist went over Samsonov’s glove on a breakaway, and the equalizer came from Reinhart. He picked up a loose puck at the edge of the crease and tapped it into the back of the net to make it 3-3.

The Capitals were 20-1-0 in games when they led by at least three goals at any point this season, including playoffs. The one loss — Nov. 30, when a 4-1 lead going into the third became a 5-4 loss.

The opponent that night? That would be the Florida Panthers.

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