The Penguins continue to dominate the Rangers in New York. Goaltender Tomas Vokoun made 28 saves to record his first shutout as a Penguin as Pittsburgh blanked the Rangers, 3-0, at Madison Square Garden.
Simon Despres finished with two points (1G-1A) and Evgeni Malkin and James Neal each tallied once.
It was one of the Penguins’ better performances of the season, and needless to say head coach Dan Bylsma was pleased.
“We did get to the offensive zone and had an affect there,” he said. “We got power plays because of speed and the way we play. I thought we played very well throughout the whole game. We had a 60-minute game and played well away from the puck.
“This was a good road win. A good 3-0 victory.”
SHUTTING THE DOOR
Goaltender Tomas Vokoun got the call between the pipes for the Penguins. And just as he did in the second game of the season in New York, he finished the night with a victory.
Vokoun made 28 saves to record his first shutout as a Penguin and 49th of his career. It was his first shutout since Feb. 7, 2012 against Florida (42 saves). Vokoun ranks fourth among active goalies in shutouts since 2005-06 with 37 (behind Martin Brodeur, Henrik Lundqvist and Roberto Luongo).
“We knew Tomas was a very good goalie and he’s got pretty good numbers,” Bylsma said. “We knew we were going to get a guy who can come in and win big games for us. He’s done that twice in this building. Tonight he was solid, looked great, looked confident, had two or three big saves he had to make. He was great.”
Vokoun was particularly impressive while the Penguins were shorthanded. He was forced to make several difficult saves through heavy traffic, but was able to keep the puck out of the net (along with a little help from his posts).
“They hit a couple posts so it could have been a different story,” Vokoun said. “It was a good team effort. It’s always tough when you have to make decisions and don’t know who is going to shoot. For the most part today we were where we needed to be and didn’t let them go east-west. All the shots were coming straight at me so it makes it easier for a goalie.”
One of the stars of the game, other than Vokoun, was rookie defenseman Simon Despres, who had a goal and assist for his first career two-point game.
“I played a good game,” Despres said. “I played with (Kris) Letang. It’s easy to play with him. He talks a lot and helps me.”
The Penguins’ 2009 first-round pick set up the team’s first score of the game with some fancy footwork. He stopped a pass by Letang at the midpoint with his skate, settled the puck and then slid the rubber to Malkin in the dot. Malkin’s blast beat Henrik Lundqvist.
Despres connected on his first goal of the season after serving a hooking penalty in the third period. He jumped out of the box as Pascal Dupuis was streaking up ice for a loose puck. Dupuis collected the puck and passed it to Despres for a clean breakaway. Despres went forehand-backhand for a beautiful score to make it 3-0.
“I was imagining it in the penalty box,” he said. “Dupuis made a nice play. Madison Square Garden in New York is a nice one to have.
“That’s the first time in my career (to get a breakaway out of the box). I’ve been imagining it all my life. I got it tonight. I’m pretty happy.”
Bylsma was impressed with the play of his 21-year-old blueliner.
“He’s playing a tough position,” Bylsma said. “He’s a first-round pick. He’s had some growing pains as a defenseman and learning that, but he’s a solid guy. You can see him be physical and big-bodied defending-wise. He gets on the scoresheet. He gets the fortunate coming out of the box breakaway that he scores on.”
The Penguins unveiled a new power play against the Rangers. Malkin was positioned at the point with an umbrella setup. All the plays were funneling through Malkin as he made the decision to pass or shoot. Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang hovered by the walls looking for one-timers. James Neal was down low with Chris Kunitz at the net looking for rebounds and dirty goals.
The newly-configured power play connected for a score early in the third period to make it a 2-0 game.
Sidney Crosby had the puck near the blue line and threw a quick pass to Neal at the side of the net. Unbelievable hand-eye-stick coordination by Neal as he deflected the puck from outside the net into the air, off the cross bar and into the netting.
The goal snapped a 0-for-16 drought by the Penguins power play. Overall, the Penguins went 1-for-6 with the man-advantage.
“(The power play) is a little bit better,” Malkin said. “We worked in practice and morning skates. We talked before the game. It’s just shooting. One goal is not bad.”
Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo played in his first game of the season against New York. Bortuzzo handled himself well. He logged 12:11 minutes of ice time and didn’t look overwhelmed or overmatched.
Bortuzzo made a smart play during a frantic scramble in front of his own net during the second period. He found the puck and instead of hastily icing it, he calmly skated it out of the zone, gained the red line as the Rangers backed off and then dumped it into the offensive zone.
Author: Sam Kasan