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After 20 minutes on Tuesday night, Alexis Lafreniere and Ryan Reaves had four hits apiece, Ryan Lindgren and Patrik Nemeth had both clocked in with three, and that was only a small piece of the bruising the Rangers were in the midst of putting on the Penguins.

This was what Chris Drury had hoped for last offseason when he added Reaves. This was the attitude the Rangers lacked last season when they were punked by Tom Wilson. This was the Rangers showing they belonged in the postseason, that they could bang and bruise with anyone.

Fast-forward about four hours, though, and Gerard Gallant was at the podium trying to explain away a gut-wrenching, 4-3, triple-overtime Game 1 loss in which the Rangers blew a two-goal lead in part because they stopped controlling the game after those opening 20 minutes.

“I mean, we couldn’t play 60 minutes like that,” Gallant said. “I’d love to say we could. But the forecheck was great. We had a great opening 25 minutes, and Pittsburgh’s a proud team and they’re gonna come back and they played harder.”

Barclay Goodrow (21) and Adam Fox tussle with Jeff Carter during the Rangers' 4-3 triple overtime loss to the Penguins.
Barclay Goodrow (21) and Adam Fox tussle with Jeff Carter during the Rangers’ 4-3 triple overtime loss to the Penguins.

How much harder?

The Penguins outshot the Rangers 25-8 in the second period and forced Igor Shesterkin into 79 saves by the time the night was over. That encompassed 32 high-danger chances and 8.99 expected goals, per Natural Stat Trick. Your eyes did not deceive you — the game flipped on its head.

“They did have a few power plays which changed the rhythm and the five-on-three [goal in the second], obviously,” Ryan Strome said. “I don’t think we were as assertive in the second period and hard on the forecheck, but all in all, I thought we played a good game.”

The two penalties the Rangers took in the second period were costly indeed — despite a shorthanded goal from Chris Kreider. Jacob Trouba’s boarding gave Pittsburgh a two-man advantage the Blueshirts couldn’t withstand. But after that, there wasn’t another power play, on either side, for the rest of the game.

In truth, the Rangers weren’t as assertive for the 80 minutes that followed the opening 20, and that was always going to end poorly

“It seemed like we started doing those little plays again,” Gallant said. “Instead of driving it deep and finishing our checks like we did in the first period, we started to get away from that a little bit, and I thought it cost us. And then the penalties we got, it slowed the momentum down a little bit, and they scored that five-on-three goal.”

All that’s left for the Rangers now is to rest, recover and move on.

“Just keep playing our way,” Mika Zibanejad said. “That’s something we have to do for 60 minutes.”

Not 20 minutes, 60 minutes.

Source: NYPOST

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