As the Rangers headed into overtime in Game 7 against the Penguins on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden, head coach Gerard Gallant said he knew who would score the game-winning goal for his team if it were to happen.
Artemi Panarin proved his coach right when he whipped the puck from the top of the right faceoff circle and past Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry to secure a 4-3 overtime win for the Rangers, who now have date with the Hurricanes in the second round.
When asked what he had seen on his victor, Panarin raised his hand in front of his eyes and said, without the help of a translator, “black image”. The curly-haired Russian had a big smile on his face, of course.
“Overall, honestly, they’ve let me shoot since Game 1,” he continued through an interpreter. “A little bad, I didn’t really do those shots. But maybe I should listen to everyone’s advice and go out and take some shots.
Despite registering three goals and four assists in the series, Panarin hadn’t been his usual dynamic self. In Game 7 in particular, the star winger struggled and a few forced passes turned into turnovers.
Still, Panarin made an impact on this series and was Rangers’ hero in the biggest moment.
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“It was a really stressful game,” he said through the translator. “There wasn’t a lot of room on the ice.
Gallant pointed out that the ice was in bad shape after the Garden held a concert Saturday night and the puck was extremely bouncy, which the coach said affects Panarin’s game more than other players. But Panarin looked like he sensed that winning move all along.
“It’s just who he is,” said Jacob Trouba. “I think a little weird, but I have the same feeling listening to what he is going to say. Thinking that you don’t know what Bread is going to say or what it’s going to do and what it’s capable of. He does everything, especially for this group. To be such a talented and skilled player, he doesn’t act like that.
“He’s just another guy, another player on the team and that’s pretty cool for a guy at this level. Glad to have him.
The Rangers won their first playoff series since the first round in 2017 against the Canadians and clinched their 54th all-time series victory. While improving to 3-5 against Pittsburgh all-time in the playoffs, the Blueshirts are also 10-6 (.625) all-time in Game 7 and 8-1 (.888 ) at home in Game 7.