Rangers: Panarin punches Rangers’ ticket to Round 2

(AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

If you tuned in to any of the games over the weekend, you’d understand why the two best words in sports are “Game Seven.” It’s where legacies are cemented, and legends are born. It’s why 28 years after scoring the most iconic goal in Rangers history, Stefan Matteau was in Madison Square Garden Sunday night to watch the Rangers take on the Penguins in the winner takes all contest.

After losing games 3 and 4 in Pittsburgh, the Rangers went down 3-1. The resilient Blueshirts crawled back into the series after come-from-behind victories in games 5 and 6, and that’s precisely what they did Sunday night. After squandering a one-goal lead in the first, another controversial goal ultimately went the way of the Penguins and gave them the lead midway through the second period. Jake Guentzel kicked the puck above the crossbar and tapped it behind Igor Shesterkin. The officials reviewed it and deemed it a goal, much to the eighteen hundred plus in attendance chagrin. K’Andre Miller quickly tied it up with some puck-luck after his shot deflected in off a Pittsburgh defender’s skate. Like game 6, the Penguins scored their third goal of the night on a breakaway after a blueline turnover by New York.

Then came the third period, in which the Rangers were trailing by one for the first fourteen minutes. Game Seven’s are the ultimate naturally occurring mulligan in sports; players who have done very little to tip the scales in the previous six games can totally redeem themselves with one goal or play that defines the series, and that’s exactly what three of the Rangers’ most recognizable stars did Sunday night. The Vezina and Hart Trophy finalist, Igor Shesterkin, had a few shaky moments in Games 3 and 4 but was as steady as possible in the elimination game. He kept the Rangers in the game with a number of incredible Lundqvist ESC saves.

There was speculation that Sidney Crosby neutralized Mika Zibanejad, and the reason he finally came to life in Game 6 with two goals and two assists was due to Crosby’s absence. Zibanejad answered those questions Sunday night with a 3-point effort and the game-tying goal in the twilight of the 3rd period. Perhaps the most impressive stat of the night for Mika was that he won 72% of his faceoffs. Mika had a faceoff percentage in games 3, 4, 5, and 6 that didn’t eclipse 45%. Zibanejad showed up in all facets of the most critical game of the year while Crosby was in the lineup. He finishes the series with 11 points.

The enigma that is Artemi Panarin has been rope-a-doping everyone all season long. The narrative on Panarin throughout the season was that he was having a down year. After 75 games, he set a new career-high in points (96) and assists (74). The story coming into Sunday was that Panarin didn’t have a good series despite having 6 points in 6 games. The way Panarin played throughout the first 60 minutes would support that narrative. Head Coach Gerrard Gallant even alluded to the Breadman’s struggles on Sunday during his media availability, “Honestly; the ice wasn’t great tonight. I think they had a concert here or something last night, and the puck was bouncing, and it affects his game more than other guys.” Gallant also added, “I said to myself, I know he’s going to score if we score. If we get the winning goal, it’s going to be him.” After Zibanejad tied the game late in the 3rd period, Panarin got his chance early in overtime. K’Andre Miller forced a penalty three minutes into the extra period by driving hard to the net on a breakaway. With 15 seconds remaining in the Powerplay, Panarin fired a wrister from the top of the right-wing circle that sent the Rangers into the second round.

The series victory is a massive milestone for the youngest team in the playoffs. A year ago, the narrative floating around the franchise was that the Rangers’ were soft. Soft teams don’t come back from 3-1 against a Penguins team that features several future Hall of Famers. The toughness and grit that have been bandied about ad nauseam have come in handy and should in the next round as the Rangers take on the Carolina Hurricanes. PNC Arena is a buzzsaw of a playoff atmosphere. The Hurricanes have had the Rangers’ number of late and should be the heavy favorites going into the series that kicks off on Wednesday night in Raleigh. If you were wondering, there is a concert at PNC Arena tonight, but not the night before game one.

In this weeks episode we discuss the Rangers contender status, offensive problems, Gallants questionable decisions and more.Thanks for listening! Please rate and review our show on your favorite listening platform. Check out our partner's website at for all your latest hockey news.
  1. Contenders or Pretenders
  2. Guest Josh Khalfin
  3. All Star Smash Mouth
  4. Our Line Starts?
  5. Recap, Cap Space and Big Picture

Luca Perito

Born and raised in New York. I've lived in Arizona, Maryland, Delaware, and California. Love all sports. Twitter @elbigcalzonelp -- Instagram @thebigcalzone

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