Guentzel On Fire, a new Mr. Game One, and More Thoughts from the Pens' Playoff Opener

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What a beautiful game.

The Pittsburgh Penguins flipped an entire series on it’s head by simply winning a triple overtime game in a hostile Madison Square Garden environment. They did what not many thought possible.

Yet, here we are, Wednesday morning and the Penguins own a 1-0 series lead heading into Game 2 on Thursday night. But all of it came at a price.

Rakell Injured

Early in the first period, the Rangers were absolutely dominating play. They were out-chancing and out skating the Penguins. It looked a lot like the series many pundits had predicted: a faster, younger Rangers team taking it to their elder statesmen.

Rickard Rakell was carrying a puck down the right wing attacking wall and was met by Ryan Lindgren who blasted Rakell into oblivion. Lindgren did leave his feet and also made some contact to Rakell’s head.  Rakell was down and very much looked to be out for a brief moment. He tried to get up on a few occasions before Penguins’ trainers could get to him but couldn’t do so. He was helped to the locker room by some of his teammates and looked very much out of it.

I don’t know if Lindgren will face any discipline for the hit. It was originally called a five-minute penalty and then was reduced to a two-minute minor. I’ll be interested to see what penalty, if any, Lindgren faces off the ice.

As we all know, goaltender Casey DeSmith also was injured in the game but I’ll save my thoughts on that whole situation for a bit later in the column.  Because we first have to give it up for Jake Guentzel. The man is absolutely on one this season.

Guentzel's on Fire

Guentzel is a 40-goal scorer again and he showed almost no signs of any slumps at any point this season. Just an absolutely insane run for him.

Guentzel buried two goals last night, and hit the post on a chance late in the second overtime that just barely missed. It’s clearly not going to be easy to beat Igor Shesterkin in this series so anytime a puck gets behind him, you can only hope it goes in.

I’m very excited to have Jake Guentzel on my team. He might get tossed around a bit by the bigger Rangers squad but he’s gonna fight through it and might just score another five goals before this series is over. The Penguins are going to need him.

The Rangers Are Down, But Not Out

A win in Game One is nice, but it is absolutely not the end all be all.

The Rangers came ready to play in the first period. They were the better team by a mile and they took a 1-0 lead into the locker room. The Penguins came out with a nice response and found a way to force three behind Shesterkin in the second period.

The entire game was very tightly contested the rest of the way but, dare I say, the Penguins were the team that deserved to win the game.

They pressed and pressed and pressed and it seemed the Rangers were on their heels more often than not over the last half of the game.

Recovering from a three-overtime loss might be a huge hurdle to overcome for the Rangers. It is absolutely demoralizing especially after they had seemingly won the game late in the third period before the goal was taken back due to goaltender interference.

The Rangers have work to do but the Penguins are not even close to being in the clear by any means. There is no one who doesn’t think the Rangers can’t win four out of the next six games to win the series.

Shesterkin Is Exactly As Advertised

I can officially say that Igor Shesterkin might just be a top-5 hockey player on the planet right now. He’s on an entirely different level than any other goalie in these playoffs.

The Penguins put up 83(!) shots in the game. Shesterkin turned away 79 of them. He battled through fatigue and helped his team get deep into a game that the Penguins seemed to control for most of the overtimes.

Shesty is a huge reason why the Penguins are in no way in the clear despite winning Game One. But even a split at MSG this early changes the dynamic of the series.

Mr. Game One - Louis Domingue

Of course, we have to save the best story for last. Louis freakin’ Domingue. Mr. Game One.

Casey DeSmith played a helluva game. His three goals were very much not his fault and he made a handful of ten bell saves before he was pulled in the second overtime due to a lower-body injury.

And like the folklore has gone in recent years for the Penguins, a new Mr. Game One goaltending hero was about to be born.

Like Jeff Zatkoff in 2015-16’ and Marc-Andre Fleury the following season, Domingue is forever entrenched into the Pens’ postseason record books with a 17-save performance.

Imagine coming in completely cold in the heat of a second overtime of a playoff game on the road. Could you be more uncomfortable? Domingue wasn’t fazed.

The Rangers rightly barraged him with shots upon his entry into the game but he was up to the task and got himself into the game early. DeSmith was unable to return and Louis freakin’ Domingue got to celebrate with his teammates at the other end of the ice when Evgeni Malkin tipped in the overtime winner.

Tristan Jarry was in the press box in New York and didn’t have a boot on. The nature of DeSmith’s injury isn’t yet identified so we don’t know if/when he will return.

It could be any if the three when Game Two starts on Thursday. I’m sure we’ll have a good idea who will be available when the Penguins skate Thursday morning.

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