Benoit Pouliot and the New York Rangers were defeated by the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 6 of their first-round series, setting up a seventh and final game at Madison Square Garden. While many of the Rangers had a tough time in Game 6, Pouliot has to be towards the top of the list.
The Rangers opened Game 6 with a purpose, putting suffocating pressure on the Flyers in the first five minutes. Philly looked unorganized and nervous with the puck, turning it over time after time in their defensive zone. For those opening minutes, Flyers goalie Steve Mason stood tall to make some key saves that kept the game scoreless early.
Pouliot was contributing to New York’s high-pressure attack, but then he made a costly mistake that ruined the Rangers’ dominating momentum. He took a stupid penalty while skating back towards the neutral zone. He grabbed Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds and pulled him to the ice. The penalty was as unnecessary as it gets, and Philadelphia made them pay on the power play.
While Pouliot watched from the penalty box, the Flyers put together a strong power play that had the Rangers scrambling in their own zone. New York failed on multiple opportunities to clear the puck, and eventually Simmonds scored the all-important first goal of the game.
Pouliot’s bonehead play stopped the Rangers in their tracks and handed all momentum to the home team. The Flyers feed off of their home crowd, and the first goal of the game was the difference between quieting the crowd and amplifying it. The latter happened after Philly opened the scoring, and Pouliot was to blame.
Pouliot also had a couple chances to atone for his early mistake but failed to capitalize. At one point in the second period, Pouliot walked in on Mason with a chance to cut a 2-0 Philly lead in half. He was stifled by the glove of Mason, and moments later the Flyers scored again to make it a commanding 3-0 lead.
A 2-1 deficit is world different from trailing by three, especially on the road. Pouliot missed his chances, but he has to regain his confidence for Game 7. He’s still a very important part of his team.
Pouliot receives a good amount of power play time and is also part of New York’s most consistent line with him, Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello. The Rangers will need him to show up in Game 7, as well as control his emotions. Pouliot needs to continue to play hard, but also play smart.