Evan Rodrigues Powers Pittsburgh Penguins to Series Lead

Evan Rodrigues
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The Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup Playoff success over the years has been built off Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel. However, Evan Rodrigues was the one that got the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 7-4 victory over the New York Rangers. The Game 3 win gives the Penguins a two games to one series lead.

Rodrigues and Jeff Carter each scored twice as players other than Crosby and Guentzel picked up the slack in Game 3. Pittsburgh managed to chase Vezina Trophy favourite Igor Shesterkin, but the Rangers did tie the game at the end of two periods. Danton Heinen broke the 4-4 tie before Carter and Guentzel potted empty-netters.

Evan Rodrigues, Jeff Carter Shine in Game 3

The opening games at Madison Square Garden showcased why Crosby and Guentzel are the main men for the Pens. Both players helped Pittsburgh scratch out the three-OT win in MSG. However, Rodrigues and Carter provided some needed scoring depth.

Rangers’ coach Gerard Gallant opted to try to get physical with Crosby in the first two games by putting Ryan Reaves‘ line on Crosby. However, Pittsburgh had the last change in the third game at home. Pittsburgh got some early chances and cashed in twice on the power play in the opening period. The Rodrigues goals were back-to-back within a span of five minutes to give the Penguins a shock 4-1 lead.

New York did fight its way back into the game with three straight goals in the second frame. However, Heinen, Carter and others were solid in frustrating the Blueshirts in the final period. The battle of the bottom-six forward groups went to the Penguins in Game 3.

Louis, Louis

The major concern after Game 1 was could newly-anointed starter Louis Domingue could cope. Casey DeSmith played very well in the series-opener but left with a lower-body injury that ended his season. New York peppered Domingue and tied the series with a 5-2 victory at the Garden. However, the emergency starter has played coolly under fire at times for the Penguins.

He is a veteran goalie but has served mostly in a backup role for a good chunk of his career. However, he made some critical saves coming in cold in Game 1 and stopped 32 shots in Game 3.

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Pittsburgh knows that it may have to pick up the offensive slack to cover for Domingue. However, the Penguins team has no problem with turning up the speed to help their goalie. Their defence also needed to make some key adjustments.

Domingue’s play also buys time for when regular starter Tristan Jarry does return to the net. Jarry is still day-to-day with his own injury, but the Penguins don’t have to rush him back. Unless Domingue falters, Jarry might not see the ice this series if the Penguins continue to play well. This won’t create an issue in goal is Jarry is the number one and both coach Mike Sullivan and Domingue know that.

Plenty of Fight

This series is far from over because the Rangers have shown they can bounce back. Game 2 served as a motivator and they were able to even the series. New York did tie Game 3 with three straight goals to force the frantic third period. There are plenty of talented players on the Blueshirts like 50-goal scorer Chris Kreider and Artemi Panarin is a notorious thorn in the Penguins’ side.

Shesterkin was also playing in his first road post-season game and he can steal a game if the Rangers aren’t playing well analytically. It’s still a series, but Game 4 is absolutely pivotal if New York has any design of winning its first playoff series since 2017.

Pittsburgh should expect a tough Game 4 and will likely have to withstand a serious and physical game if it wants a 3-1 series lead. New York has proven that it can handle adversity in the past with Gallant. Some teams would have folded after a tough three-overtime loss in Game 1, but the Rangers did not. Expect that same kind of effort.

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