The Pittsburgh Penguins failed to close out the New York Rangers in their Game 5 loss on Wednesday night, but their attention afterward was on the loss of captain Sidney Crosby.
The Rangers won 5-3 to narrow the Penguins’ series lead to 3-2.
Game 6 is Friday night in Pittsburgh. The question now is whether Crosby, who is second in the Stanley Cup playoffs in scoring with nine points in five games, will be available for that contest.
Crosby, a three-time Stanley Cup champion and a two-time Hart Trophy winner, was injured in the second period after taking a high hit from Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba. Crosby finished his last shift with 6:50 left in the period and did not return.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said that Crosby was being evaluated and did not offer any information on the nature of the injury. As for the hit from Trouba, Sullivan said: “Did you see the hit? You probably have the same opinion I do.”
With Crosby sidelined, the Rangers roared back from a 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead in the second period. New York forward Filip Chytil’s power-play goal in the third period broke a 3-3 tie and ended up as the game winner.
The Rangers didn’t have the best start to Game 5. Forward Chris Kreider and Trouba both took minor penalties 24 seconds into the game, but New York was able to kill off the ensuing two-man advantage. The Penguins broke through at 10:28 of the first period, as forward Jake Guentzel collected a rebound from in back of the Rangers’ net and banked the puck off of goalie Igor Shesterkin’s skate and into the net.
It was 2-0 Penguins at 7:58 of the second period, as Evgeni Malkin found Kris Letang for his first goal of the series.
Pittsburgh was in control of the game when Rangers defenseman Adam Fox finally broke through at 15:11 of the second period to bring Madison Square Garden back to life and reignite the New York offense. Rangers forward Alexis Lafreniere scored one minute and 30 seconds later to knot it. Trouba scored on a great individual effort just one minute and 22 seconds after that to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead.
The celebration was short-lived. Malkin, playing in Crosby’s spot, found Guentzel for his second goal of the game and seventh of the playoffs to tie the game 3-3 — just 13 seconds after Trouba’s score.
The Rangers earned their first power play of the game in the third period with defenseman Marcus Pettersson in the box for interference. Chytil scored his first of the playoff on the ensuring power play, giving the Rangers the lead at 2:53 of the third. Ryan Lindgren added an empty-netter, and the series shifted back to Pittsburgh — where Crosby’s status remains a mystery.
“We never want to see a player like that leave, but we have to find a way,” Guentzel said. “He’s the best player in the world. That’s a lot of minutes other guys have to take up. Next man up.”