“I think the playoffs sometimes can reveal who you are, the kind of character you have,” Kreider said. “For him to stay with his game and continue to work, he’s been a huge, huge leader for us all year. He’s been an absolute horse.”
The Rangers trailed, 2-0 after one period, and the Penguins, playing without Sidney Crosby, their star center and captain, were 40 minutes from advancing to the second round. But Zibanejad scored two goals on one-time slap shots within 76 seconds to tie the game.
“There’s no quit,” Zibanejad said of the comeback. “That’s what I love about this team.”
A few minutes later there was another crazy breakaway. The play started when Igor Shesterkin, the Rangers goalie, took advantage of a bad Penguins line change and made a perfect 100-foot stretch pass onto Zibanejad’s stick. Zibanejad was in alone again.
“His passing is sometimes better than all of us,” Zibanejad said of Shesterkin’s stick work.
Penguins goalie Louis Domingue made the initial stop on Zibanejad, but Kreider was right there with his linemate, and he smacked home the rebound to give the Rangers the lead, 3-2. If that sounds similar to the scoring pattern of Game 5 at Madison Square Garden, it was, and it would continue, right down to New York’s final empty-net goal at the end.
Evgeni Malkin scored for the Penguins to even things up, 3-3, on a breakaway late in the second period. The game remained tied until there was only 1:28 left to play. Kreider then unleashed a high slap shot that Domingue saved in front of his chest, but the puck spun up over his head and fell back behind him and into the net.
“Nobody said it was going to be easy,” said Kris Letang, the Penguins defenseman. “They are a really good team. They have a lot of skilled players that can score goals.”