The New York Rangers looked like a beaten team heading in to Friday night’s Game 5 against the Penguins in Pittsburgh. They hadn’t played badly in the series to that point but were struggling to put the puck in the net. They were shut out in Games 2 and 3 despite getting over 70 shots on goal. They finally put a couple in the net in Game 4, ironically getting two goals from only 15 shots. Pittsburgh wasn’t dominating but they were doing what they had to do to win putting themselves in a position where they just needed a win on home ice to advance.
A sports betting site gave an insight into this battle by looking at the odds provided by one of the online sportsbooks listed at TopBettingReviews.com. Their spokesperson said, “Despite overwhelming odds of coming back in the series (teams up 3-1 with a Game 5 on home ice go on to win the series over 90% of the time in the NHL) the Rangers prevailed. For the first time since their Game 1 overtime win they looked like the team that wanted it more. Henrick Lundqvist outplayed Marc Andre Fleury and the Rangers kept pressure on the Penguins throughout the game en route to a 5-1 victory.” They now head home to Madison Square Garden with a more manageable 3-2 series deficit and some degree of renewed confidence.
It would be incorrect, however, to think that the ‘momentum has shifted’. Pittsburgh defenseman Rob Scuderi observed that his team played ‘like they thought they had an automatic bid to the next round’. That was in contrast with a gritty, determined effort from the Rangers who might get their own false sense of confidence as they head back to New York for Game 6. The Penguins should be significantly more focused playing on enemy ice trying to avoid a Game 7 scenario.
Historically, this type of Game 6 situation is a near toss up in the NHL. The road team wins in this scenario 52.7% of the time and goes on to win the series 80.1% of the time. The Rangers managed to put up a resolute Game 5 effort against a complacent opponent but still face an uphill battle to survive, let alone win this series. The Penguins have demonstrated cool confidence in their three wins and that mojo should be back for Game 5.