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Defensive zone lapses lead to Rangers' OT win

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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Rangers' Benoit Poluiot fires a shot past Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta to score during the first period of Game 1 of their second-round Stanley Cup playoff series Friday, May 2, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.
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Friday, May 2, 2014, 10:18 p.m.
 

Derick Brassard got his first career playoff overtime goal. He was robbed of the chance to celebrate it appropriately.

Brassard ultimately was credited with the winner but only after fellow Rangers forward Benoit Pouliot also beat Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury seven seconds later. The NHL situation room quickly announced Brassard's goal counted, but the result remained the same: New York beat the Penguins, 3-2, in Game 1 of the teams' second-round series Friday night.

“I'm just happy that we win this game,” Brassard said in the locker room after his third career playoff goal. “It's obviously huge when you win the first game.”

The Rangers so wanted the series opening game that they scored the winner twice.

New York was dominating possession and zone time during its fourth shift of overtime — although the final seven seconds of it were erased from the books once the league credited Brassard with his first goal of the playoffs at 3:07.

Alone in the slot, Brassard flipped a wrist shot from just outside the crease over the stick of a diving Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo and the right shoulder of Fleury.

The puck was still rising as it passed just under the crossbar. It hit the inside of the top of the net and deflected back into play.

Brassard raised his arms as if he'd scored, but ...

“The ref said it wasn't in,” he said.

“Didn't hear a whistle,” said Pouliot, who had the game's first goal. “The way the puck came out, I had no clue. I was right beside the net, and I still had no clue. You just have to keep going.”

The Penguins appeared disorganized to the point that the Rangers' chances kept coming. Pouliot eventually beat Fleury. This time, the officials acknowledged it, the red light went on and Pouliot celebrated.

“I found out later that Brass got the goal,” Pouliot said.

“Brassard got it?” New York center Brad Richards answered to a question from the media. “I didn't know that. Good for Brass.”

Even if Pouliot didn't put one in for good measure, eventually the winner would have been awarded to Brassard at the next stoppage when video review would have been used.

That would have left much of the ensuing chaos moot. But it doesn't make the final shift of the game any less inexcusable for the Penguins.

“It was kind of a scramble,” said captain Sidney Crosby, who was a minus-3.

“Just big pile of guys,” Fleury said, “and I was trying to find the puck out of it.”

The winning goal wasn't the only one by the Rangers that was aided by sloppy play by the Penguins in their own end. Richards made it 2-0 late in the first period by taking advantage of a blown assignment and some shaky coverage.

Carl Hagelin made Olli Maata look foolish by taking a puck off of him after Maatta had beat him to a loose puck deep in the Penguins' zone. Matt Niskanen abandoned his position to support Maata, but by then Hagelin had clear possession and was passing to a wide-open Richards just inside the left-wing circle.

With no Penguins player near him — Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were mere spectators — Richards had time to turn and get the puck to his forehand before depositing it behind a lunging Fleury.

Chris Adamski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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