Lack of Depth Scoring, Domingue Up to the Challenge, Thoughts on Pens’ Game 2 Loss

Photo credit: Eric Harline/USA Today

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Game 2 wasn’t so kind to the Penguins. The New York Rangers ensured a split at Madison Square Garden with a 5-2 victory over the Penguins Thursday night.  
All things considered, the Rangers losing this game might’ve made a comeback for them an insurmountable feat. It’s tough to take two games in a hostile environment like MSG so coming back to Pittsburgh with a split is certainly nothing to scoff at.

The Penguins were their starting goaltender from Game 1, Casey DeSmith, leading to Louis Domingue's first career postseason start. Jason Zucker skated the warmup, but was not able to go in a game setting just yet. Brian Dumoulin was a surprising omission from the lineup and is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Obviously, Rickard Rakell is out currently too after the hit from Ryan Lindgren during game one.

There is a wealth of things to discuss from this game so let’s take a look into it and dissect some of the developing storylines.

Crosby’s Line is Dominating, But Needs Help

You can’t help but marvel at the Pens’ top line doing what they’re doing and continuing on what was a phenomenal regular season. Crosby buried a goal last night, and absolutely dominated the Rangers in the process on the play. Jake Guentzel had the only other goal for the Pens.

In Game 1, Guentzel had two goals and Bryan Rust potted one. Evgeni Malkin had the overtime winner.

Which means that of the six goals Pittsburgh has in the first two games, the top line has five of them. I know I mentioned that the Pens are going to need Crosby and Co. to continue their dominance after a few lackluster postseasons recently. However, they can’t be the only sources of offense.

The bottom-six was nearly invisible in the way of offense Thursday. It doesn’t help that Rakell and Zucker are missing because those injuries are forcing other guys into elevated playing time that shouldn’t be in that role.

But Jeff Carter has been a mess through two games. Brock McGinn has been flying but he’s long overdue to bury a goal. Brian Boyle, Teddy Blueger, Evan Rodrigues, and Drew O’Connor are all guys capable of scoring. O’Connor gets a pass because he hasn’t been here. But these other guys need to score.

Domingue Was Good, Despite the Scoreboard

The fact of the matter is that Louis Domingue is a third-string goaltender. He’s a veteran and has played a good bit in the NHL so he’s not devoid of experience. That being said, he can’t be expected to take over a series in net.

He miraculously saved the game for Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Honestly, he very well could’ve stolen another one on Thursday if a few bounces went his way. He saw a few deflections get behind him and a bounce off of Mike Matheson in front of the crease that got into the back of the net.

He was truly only beaten once on the night by the fifth goal, scored by Frank Vatrano.

The save on Mika Zibanejad was unreal early in the first period. He sprawled across the crease and gloved his shot on a wide open net. It was just sensational.

In an ideal world, the Penguins get DeSmith, or to a less likely extent, Tristan Jarry back for Game 3. Or maybe a home crowd behind Domingue would be enough to keep his spirits up after a frustrating outing. But this one is by no means on him. He did everything he could.

The Power Play Has to Convert

New York’s penalty kill is one of the top units in the league alongside the Penguins. They’ve both been around the top all season long.

Where the Rangers have a decided advantage is the power play.

It’s mind-boggling that the Penguins can’t generate more offense on the man advantage. They have loads of talent on that unit. Crosby, Malkin, Guentzel, Rust, Kris Letang, you name it. But they just can’t get things going.

After a mess of a game by the officials on Tuesday, last night they awarded six total power plays, two of which were to the Penguins. Both chances came early on in the game and weren’t capitalize upon which set the tone.

The Rangers converted on a power play chance in the second that broke a 1-1 tie. Getting production on special teams will sway the series one way or the other.

Maybe being at home will help that unit assuming the refs continue to call penalties at such a frequent rate.

Shesterkin Was Great Again and His Flop was Oscar-Worthy

Everyone knew that Igor Shesterkin could’ve easily taken this series all by himself before it even started. He’s been that good all year and has 118 saves on 124 shots through two games. I mean that’s insane. You have to just keep shoveling shots at him and hope to wear him down. We knew this was a possibility.

But can we talk about his encounter with Jeff Carter?

At first glance, you watch that play and immediately are ready to heap all the blame on Carter. Watch the replay and it’s completely different.

Shesterkin attempts to get back into his net as Carter skates to get below the net, as they pass each other, Shesterkin appears to stick his leg out enough to make contact with Carter.

The goaltender then takes a nice helicopter like tumble to the ground and lays on the ice like every bone in his body is broken…just to get up and shake it all off to finish the game like nothing ever happened.

Come on, bro. I’ve seen Ross Ohlendorf put up better pitching performances in his career than Shesterkin did in his acting debut on this play. I guess everyone in New York wants to be on Broadway eventually. Igor has some work to do.

The Overall Effort Was There Again for the Penguins

Once the calendar turns to the playoffs, there is no reason whatsoever that teams should be flat on any given night. Getting beat by your opponent is one thing. Coming out flat and not getting up for the game like the Steelers in a mid-October game against the Jets is another thing.

The Pens haven’t had that issue for the last two games. They weren’t flying for sixty minutes tonight. But they had a sense of urgency coming out in the third period like they wanted to tie the game.

Anytime you see a bad deflected goal get by your goaltender though, it is deflating.

Being down 4-2 with a little over 11 minutes left certainly isn’t insurmountable but it’s something that’s tough to overcome when your nine minute barrage merits not a single goal behind the opposing goaltender.

Being back at PPG Paints Arena on Saturday and Monday evening should hopefully motivate the Pens a bit. They can’t allow the Rangers to take both games in their house or the series won’t even make it back to Pittsburgh for game six.

To feel like the Penguins are going to win the series, you’d love to get both games in Pittsburgh. Will that happen? I don’t know. Another split would be way better than losing both. You hate to have game five at MSG being a 2-2 tie breaker but it would be even worse if the Pens have to hop on a plane on the brink of elimination.

Effort, effort, effort is the name of the game. They’ve got to skate hard for sixty minutes a night to keep up with these Rangers.