Tuesday, December 6

Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins edge New York Rangers in overtime thriller as backup goalie Louis Domingue delivers

NEW YORK — Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin scored 5:58 into the third overtime to defeat the New York Rangers 4-3 on Tuesday night in a wild Game 1 of their Stanley Cup Playoff opening-round series.

It was a contest that featured an all-time performance by Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin and a stunning relief effort from the Penguins’ goalie Louis Domingue.

Shesterkin made 79 saves for the Rangers, the second-most in a Stanley Cup Playoffs game ever. He was closing in on Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo’s 2020 record of 85 saves against the Tampa Bay Lightning when Malkin tipped home a point shot from Penguins defenseman John Marino.

While Shesterkin was making his saves at one end, the Penguins had some goaltending drama in Game 1.

The game took an odd turn in the second overtime. Penguins starter Casey DeSmith walked off the ice through the Zamboni door 9:07 into the second extra session. Reports were it was a cramping issue. He had played exceptionally well, making 48 saves through that point.

Domingue, his backup goalie, came off the Penguins’ bench and began warming up. Domingue is in his eighth NHL season. The 30-year-old journeyman was signed in Sept. 2021 by the Penguins as a free agent and appeared in just two games for Pittsburgh this season – the last time in a 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on April 24.

DeSmith got the Game 1 start because Penguins starter Tristan Jarry was unavailable for the first two games of their series against the Rangers, at a minimum. Jarry last played on April 14 and then was sidelined with a broken foot.

Despite being ice cold, Domingue made 14 saves in the second overtime and then three more in the third overtime before Malkin won it.

According to the Rangers, it was the longest NHL game ever played at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers dominated the early part of the game, taking a 1-0 lead in defenseman Adam Fox’s power-play goal at 9:19 of the first period. The Rangers grew that lead to 2-0 on an Andrew Copp goal at 3:08 of the second period.

The Penguins came alive in the second period, putting New York on its toes thanks to an effective forecheck. Sidney Crosby setup Jake Guentzel twice for goals to tie the game. But the Rangers stuck back on a shorthanded goal by Chris Kreider, only to see the Penguins tie the game again on that power play thanks to a precision passing play from Kris Letang to Evgeni Malkin to Bryan Rust — incidentally, all unrestricted free agents after the season.

Game 1 didn’t lack for controversy. The Rangers received only one power-play in the game. The Penguins lost forward Rickard Rakell to an upper body injury in the first period on a hit by Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren. It was originally called a major penalty, but was reviewed down to a minor penalty for roughing.

The most controversial moment came late in the third period, on an apparent goal that could have ended the game before the marathon overtimes.

With 3:10 left in the third period, the Rangers appeared to take a 4-3 lead on a goal by center Filip Chytil. He tucked the puck into an abandoned net, as Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith was taken out of his crease on a collision that included both Rangers forward Kaapo Kakko and Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin, who trailed behind him.

The Penguins coaches watched the replay on a monitor at the bench and decided to challenge for goalie interference. It was a gamble – if the challenge failed, not only would the Rangers have the lead, but the Penguins would also have been given a minor penalty for delay of game. That theoretically could have left them shorthanded until there was just 1:10 left in the period.

The officials watched the replay and conferred. Their decision: The call on the ice was overturned and there was no goal scored on the play.

The explanation from the NHL’s Situation Room said that “Video review determined New York’s Kaapo Kakko impaired Casey DeSmith’s ability to play his position in the crease prior to Filip Chytil’s goal. The decision was made in accordance with Rule 69.1 which states, in part, ‘Goals should be disallowed only if: (1) an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal'”

There’s a provision in the goalie interference rule that if an attacking player “has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by a defending player so as to cause him to come into contact with the goalkeeper,” that contact will not be considered as initiated by the attacking player as long as that player made a “reasonable effort” to avoid contact. While Dumoulin was leaning on Kakko, the officials clearly felt that he didn’t make a reasonable effort to avoid contact with DeSmith.

Game 2 of this suddenly epic series is Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

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