This is not the ultimate goal, not even by a long shot. But, boy, what a high to take with the Rangers as they move on and advance yet again.
Dom Moore bounced around in the corner like an untouchable pinball. He found Carl Hagelin, who turned at the right dot, and shot. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury reached with his glove, but it was already done — the overtime of Game 5 had ended, the Rangers had beaten the Penguins, 2-1, and this first-round playoff series was finished in favor of the Blueshirts, who needed just five games and set the Friday night Garden aflame.
“It’s one of the happiest moments of my life,” Hagelin said.
But for the Rangers, this joy will have to be short-lived. Their sights are deeper into the playoffs, when the celebrities who rolled in to catch a glimpse of the best show in town can roll out into warmer air.
Because dreams of the Stanley Cup linger just in front of these Blueshirts, now with one round down, with four of the requisite 16 wins in the book, and most of the heavy lifting still sitting in front of them.
After a couple days off, it will start in the next round against whoever comes out of the slugfest of Islanders-Capitals.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” defenseman Marc Staal said. “I wouldn’t call it a relief. It’s a different feeling when you’re expected to win the series. It’s different than last year when you’ve had expectations within your room that people on the outside don’t really expect you to do much. It’s good that we answered here in the first round, and we were able to close out a pretty good hockey team.”
The Penguins were hobbled with injuries on the back end and were relegated by coach Mike Johnston to play a generally conservative game. But they did get their chances, especially from Sidney Crosby.
And when those chances came, there was Crosby’s rival, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. The two of them among the best in the world at the absolute heights of their game.
“Everything came down to individual, big plays at the right time,” said Lundqvist, who finished with 37 saves, including all 14 shots the Penguins sent at him in the third period, when it seemed as if there was no chance any clean shot was getting past him. “To experience a win in overtime in the playoffs, it’s hard to find something better to experience. The adrenaline and pressure you play under, the satisfaction when you see the puck go in — it’s just amazing.”
Lundqvist made a handful of game-saving stops, but might have to give just the slightest bit of credit — say, 1/37th — to his crossbar. With the game tied 1-1 and 13:50 remaining in the third period, the Penguins were on the power play and Crosby beat Lundqvist high, only to have it ring off the iron and into infamy.