The Rangers force Game Six and the Wild even the score; notes on Zuccarello, St. Louis, Cooke, Toews and more.
RANGERS ROCK PENGUINS
Facing elimination, the New York Rangers invaded Pittsburgh, earned a first-period lead and never let the Penguins back into it, winning 5-1 in Game Five, forcing Game Six back in Manhattan.
Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello each had three points for the Rangers, while LW Chris Kreider and D Ryan McDonagh each contributed a goal and an assist.
Brassard, who was a point-per-game player for the Rangers in a dozen playoff games last year, now has six points (3 G, 3 A) in 12 playoff games this season, while Zuccarello is up to eight points (3 G, 5 A). Zuccarello also had the best possession stats for the Rangers, with 16 shot attempts for and seven against. The Blueshirts had 69.6% of the attempts with Zuccarello on the ice and 48.6% when he was off the ice.
This was only Kreider's second game of the playoffs, and he was effective on a line with Derek Stepan and Rick Nash. Both Kreider and Brassard tied for the Rangers' team lead with six hits.
McDonagh, who only had one assist in 11 playoff games prior to Game Four, had a goal and an assist, with both points coming on the previously beleaguered Rangers power play. After scoring two goals on three attempts with the man advantage, maybe the Rangers are ready to leave that PP slump in the rearview mirror.
After getting annihilated by Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in Game Four, the Rangers (led by McDonagh and Dan Girardi) were much more effective against that duo in Game Five. While Malkin scored a goal, Crosby was on for 13 shot attempts for and 18 against.
The inspirational story for the Rangers was veteran RW Martin St. Louis, playing a day after his mother died suddenly. St. Louis didn't have his best game, but the Rangers rallied around him and G Henrik Lundqvist stopped 31 of 32 Pittsburgh shots to keep the series going.
The Penguins' line of James Neal, Jussi Jokinen and Brandon Sutter didn't fare too well in the possession game. Neal, in particular, was on the ice for 28.6% of the 5-on-5 shot attempts when he was on the ice, while the Penguins had 54.0% of the shot attempts with Neal off the ice.
In a must-win game, the Rangers played with an urgency that they haven't shown in this series and are rewarded with a home date for Game Six. They're not out of the woods, by any means, but deserve credit for a big road win.
WILD AT HEART
The Minnesota Wild dominated play against the Chicago Blackhawks and won Game Four by a 4-2 score, evening the series at two games apiece.
Wild defencemen Jared Spurgeon and Ryan Suter each had two points. Spurgeon, who had a goal and an assist, now has five points in the playoffs. Suter is up to seven.
Wild LW Matt Cooke returned to the lineup, after serving a seven-game suspension and replaced Matt Moulson, who is out with a lower-body injury. Cooke was an impact player for Minnesota, playing a physical game (a game-high five hits), and chipping in an assist on the first goal of the game. He set the tone.
Wild forwards Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula and Jason Pominville were all on for better than 70% of the 5-on-5 shot attempts, while Blackhawks RW Ben Smith had a game to forget, on for zero 5-on-5 shot attempts and 13 against. Smith spent the first half of the game on a line with Jonathan Toews, who was on for seven attempts for and 21 against, his 25% Corsi% was his lowest of the year. Toews faced the Wild's top defence pair, Suter and Jonas Brodin, for most of the night.
Blackhawks RW Marian Hossa had two assists and D Brent Seabrook had one; they are tied for Chicago's playoff scoring lead with 10 points.
Neither goaltender, Chicago's Corey Crawford or Minnesota's Ilya Bryzgalov, looked sharp, but with the Wild controlling play, they had more opportunities to take advantage against Crawford.
In front of a rowdy home crowd, the Wild continued their winning ways, now 5-0 at home in the postseason. If they're going to pull off the upset, though, they are going to need to win at least one in Chicago.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.