Kreider scores late, Rangers beat Pens to force Game 7

PITTSBURGH — Chris Kreider doesn’t believe in dwelling on the past. Only the next play remains for the New York Rangers’ star forward.

That’s why Kreider tossed linemate Mika Zibanejad’s iPad to the ground in frustration after Zibanejad got upset over a second-period breakaway against Pittsburgh’s Louie Domingue on Friday night that ended with Zibanejad hitting the post.

Kreider told Zibanejad to stop doubting himself. It was a good move. He didn’t go in. Happens. He just keeps playing.

So did Zibanejad. Creeder too. And thanks to their relentlessness, the resilient Rangers return home for a Game 7.

The two longtime teammates each scored two goals, including Kreider’s shot from the spot that hit Domingue high, then went over the goalie’s head and rolled into the net with 1:28 left to go. the Rangers to a 5-3 win over Sidney Crosby. Fewer penguins to push their exciting first-round playoff series to the limit.

“Regardless of the situation, I’m proud of the way this team competes,” Kreider said. “Whether we’re down, whether we’re up, we’re trying to get to our game, trying to play the same way.”

As they have done repeatedly throughout this topsy-turvy series, the Rangers rallied from a multi-goal deficit and will host Game 7 on Sunday at Madison Square Garden with huge momentum.

“We fought back after (falling behind) and that showed some character in our group,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said.

A group looking to advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2017. New York will have a chance thanks to play from Kreider and Zibanejad, four assists from Adam Fox and 31 saves from Igor Shesterkin, who rebounded from two wobbly performances at PPG Pinta Arena. earlier in the series to silence the chants of “IIIIGOOORRRR” that rained down on him frequently.

“He fights, that’s what he does,” Kreider said of Shesterkin, a finalist for the Vezina and Hart trophies. “He’s been our best player all year and he’s still our best player.”

Pittsburgh’s best player, on the other hand, was forced to watch his team blow an opportunity to drive from deep. The Penguins played without Crosby, who is dealing with an upper-body injury that forced the captain to miss his first playoff game in five years.

For long stretches, it looked like Pittsburgh would find a way to move on even with Crosby’s familiar No. 87 out of the lineup. Bryan Rust and Jeff Carter scored during the first period to put the Penguins into a 2-0 lead and Evgeni Malkin’s breakaway late in the second tied the game at 3 after the Rangers took the lead.

In the end, it didn’t matter. Shesterkin held his own in the third period and Domingue, who played solid if not spectacularly while filling in for injured starters Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith, allowed his first really soft goal of the playoffs when Kreider’s relatively innocuous shot from the point hit the goalie’s glove. then fluttered after him.

“Nobody said it was going to be easy,” Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang said. “They are a very good team. They have a lot of skilled players who can score goals. It’s a four-way race and we have to regroup, stay positive and get the job done.”

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT ISSUES

The Penguins were in control early in the second period when forward Evan Rodrigues was called for roughing after objecting to a hit against the boards by New York’s Ryan Lindgren.

Zibanejad took 5 seconds to score with the man advantage to give the Rangers a much-needed jolt and give him his first goal of the postseason. Zibanejad’s second came just 1:16 later on another laser, this one from the right circle.

Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan chided Rodrigues for not being able to control his emotions.

“That’s a necessary part of winning this time of year,” Sullivan said.

So is scoring when you’re 5-on-3. The Penguins didn’t do that early in Game 5 in New York. They couldn’t do it again on Friday, generating little despite going 1:07 with a two-man lead. Pittsburgh went 0-for-3 on the night’s power play, while the Rangers went 2-for-3.

“I think I’m probably stating the obvious, but special teams made a difference,” Sullivan said. “We have to be better.”

GAME 7 UNCERTAINTY

Crosby skated early Friday morning with Pittsburgh skating and skill development coach Ty Hennes, but was not part of the Penguins’ optional skate. His condition is unknown as of Sunday.

Jarry, who has been out since mid-April with a broken foot, was hit while skating but was held back once more. Penguins forward Rickard Rakell missed his fifth straight game after taking a big hit in the series opener. Pittsburgh lost veteran forward Brian Boyle in the first period. Sullivan said Boyle was being evaluated for a lower body injury.

PREDICTING THE FUTURE?

Gallant said before the playoffs began that the only time home ice matters in the postseason is Game 7.

“I hope I’m right,” Gallant said. “We’ve played well in our building. And like I said, it’s a Game 7. Winner goes on. Loser goes home. So I think it’s going to be a great game.”

The Penguins, by the way, are undefeated all-time (6-0) when they play Game 7 on the road.

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