We all knew goaltending would be the story of this series, but this was probably not the way many were expecting it to play out.
What we thought would be a battle between Marc-Andre Fleury and Henrik Lundqvist became... Jeff Zatkoff and Antti Raanta? The news dropped at the start of warmups that Fleury wouldn't be able to go thanks to lingering issues with the head injury he sustained earlier this month. Zatkoff, a goaltender with no postseason experience, was getting the start for the Penguins instead. Rangers fans were salivating at the opportunity, and New York wasted no time in peppering Zatkoff with 12 shots in the first period.
The 28-year-old stood tall through it all ... well, through most of it. There was a wobble on a 5-on-3 power play in the third that was more the fault of the Penguins sitting in the box than anything, but Pittsburgh's suffocating neutral zone play did the rest. The Penguins rallied around their netminding situation and took home a 5-2 win, proving that they can have a backup goaltender and still play Pittsburgh hockey.
At the other end, an unfortunate stick caught Henrik Lundqvist in the face in the dying minutes of the first and sidelined him for two periods. Though Lundqvist gave up a goal in the final seconds of the opening period, it was just minutes after sustaining the hit.
Raanta was the weaker of the two backups, but also was not given help by his defense. The next two Penguins goals came on odd man situations, including a shorthanded 2-on-1 goal due to a bad Ranger line change that put the game away for Pittsburgh in the third period.
The Rangers scored a pair in the third period, both from Derek Stepan -- but Zatkoff was up to the task on the 35 other shots.
3 things we learned
1. Patric Hornqvist asserted himself with a hat trick
One way to give your backup support? Score a hat trick. Hornqvist was all over the ice in the Penguins win, with three goals and one assist the final tally for the forward. Most definitely a big part of the victory in Game 1.
2. Never, ever leave Sidney Crosby all alone in the neutral zone
Just don't do it. You'll get burned. Like the Rangers defense did.
3. Lundqvist day-to-day thanks to an errant stick
Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault announced between periods that Lundqvist would be day-to-day thanks to the scary injury the goaltender sustained at the end of the first. Want to watch it again? I don't blame you if you don't want to.