- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers prevailed in overtime, beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden to punch their ticket to the second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs.
HOW IT HAPPENED: Though the Rangers dominated the first period, striking on their first power-play opportunity of the night and driving possession, the Penguins rallied with a goal from fourth-liner Nick Spaling in the second period. And anyone who has watched this series was not the least bit surprised this one required extra time, given how each of the past four games was decided by just a single goal. Speedy winger Carl Hagelin notched the winner midway through the first overtime period, spinning from the right circle for a short-side goal to send the Penguins packing.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Rangers entered the game with a chance to seal the deal on home ice and they delivered, preventing the Penguins from creeping back in and extending their playoff hopes. By vanquishing the Pens in five games, the Rangers earned themselves a critical few days of rest before they advance to the Eastern Conference semifinal. That could be huge as they hope to get a few players healthy. Meanwhile, you have to wonder if another early postseason exit could mean changes for the underachieving Penguins.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury deserved better because he was magnificent in Game 5, holding the Penguins in the game during stretches where they really didn't deserve to be. That's not so different from Fleury's play throughout the series, and the regular season as well. Though the netminder has endured heaps of criticism in years past for the way he has melted down in the playoffs, he deserves credit for the way he has bounced back this season to be the backbone of this team. It should be noted that Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was also superb in his own crease, making several key saves against Pittsburgh, particularly during the latter two periods of the game.
STAT OF THE GAME: 04:56 -- That's the official ice time for Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello, who was forced from the game in the first period after getting hit in the face with a shot. Should the Rangers be without Zuccarello for any amount of time during the playoffs, that could be a significant blow to their offense, considering his speed, creativity and ability to antagonize opponents. He also plays on the top line with Rick Nash and Derick Brassard, both of whom have been very good this series and would miss what No. 36 brings to the lineup on a nightly basis.