A new chapter for the New York Rangers-Penguins playoff history book

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The New York Rangers enter Game 6 of their first-round series with the Pittsburgh Penguins facing a win-win situation. This is the third time the Rangers have appeared in a playoff game against Pittsburgh on this date. What path will the blue shirts follow? Will it be a bitter disappointment or an inspired comeback?

Parallel #1 – Bitter disappointment

In 1992, the Rangers won the Presidents’ Trophy with the best record in the NHL. Mark Messier would win the Hart Trophy and the Ted Lindsay Award and Brian Leetch would win his first Norris Trophy. They were a powerhouse and were favorites to lift the Stanley Cup. After a hard-fought first-round series against the Devils that lasted seven games, the Rangers faced the Penguins.

The Penguins were the defending Stanley Cup champions and despite finishing fourth in the Patrick Division, they had an all-star roster including Mario Lemieux, Ron Francis, Jaromir Jagr, Larry Murphy, Rick Tocchet, Kevin Stevens and Tom Barasso.

It was Adam Graves’ “heard slash around the word” series. In game two, Graves hit Mario Lemieux in the wrist, fracturing him and eliminating him from the series. Graves played in the next game which Rangers won in extra time, but was then suspended for four games. Pittsburgh won the next three games against the Rangers without Graves and won the series.

It was May 13 that Rangers were knocked out, losing 5-1 in a one-sided loss on the road.

So in 1992 we had a series where a Ranger knocked out the Penguins’ best player in the series with what was considered throughout the NHL to be a dirty play, despite the league ruling that there was no no intention to hurt.

The Penguins were able to shake off the loss to Lemieux and win the series. They would then sweep the Bruins in the Conference Finals and win the Stanley Cup in a sweep against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Will the 2021-22 Penguins rise to the occasion and do the same if they lose Sidney Crosby?

Parallel #2 – An Inspired Return

On this date in 2014, the Rangers beat the Penguins 2-1 in Game 7 of their second-round playoff series. It was the first time the Blueshirts had come back from a 3-1 deficit in a series to win.

The Penguins beat Rangers 4-2 in Game 4 at Madison Square Garden to take a 3-1 lead. Rangers faced the daunting task of having to win three games in a row, with two of the games on the road. The day after that loss, Rangers star Martin St. Louis learned that his mother had died of a heart attack at age 63.

What happened next is legendary. St. Louis surprised the hockey world with Game 5 and a Rangers-inspired team beat the Penguins 5-1. In Game 6 at Madison Square Garden on Mother’s Day, St. Louis opened the scoring with one of the most famous goals in franchise history to push the Blueshirts to a 3-1 win.

On May 13, the Rangers completed the comeback by winning 2-1 at Pittsburgh. The winning goal was scored in the second half by Brad Richards, assisted by who else? Martin Saint-Louis.

About tonight

Tonight’s game may not be Game 7, but it’s an elimination game. The odds of winning Blueshirts are greatly improved if Sidney Crosby doesn’t play, but his absence could inspire the Penguins to play their hearts out in front of an enraged home crowd. Remember 1992.

Rangers fans may want to see a parallel to the 2014 Rangers. In this case, the Rangers were an overperforming team that finished 11th overall in the NHL. They weren’t expected to go far in the playoffs and in their series against the Penguins they faced Sidney Crosby in his prime, winner of the Hart and Art Ross Trophy that season.

This year’s Rangers team is the definition of overachievers and although they finished with a better record than the Penguins, most hockey insiders had Pittsburgh ahead in this series.

In a few hours, we’ll know what chapter the Rangers will write in their long playoff history with the Penguins.

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