The New York Rangers emphatically ended Pittsburgh’s winning streak at four games on Wednesday, beating the Penguins 5-1 at Madison Square Garden in the first meeting between the Metropolitan Division rivals.
The Penguins dominated early in the game, but couldn’t convert any of the chances they created. And the Rangers capitalized on a pair of opportunities the Penguins gave them late in the period due to poor puck management, a deficit from which they didn’t recover.
“We generated some good chances, especially early,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “There's no guarantees, though, when you do that. I think that happens sometimes, you carry the play and you end up without the lead. We still got to find ways to get back into it and unfortunately we didn't. We made a number of mistakes that hurt us.”
The Pens had been playing incredibly well defensively during their four-game win streak, entering the game with the sixth-lowest goals-against average (2.20) in the NHL and having allowed the fourth-fewest average shots per game (25.8). But the Pens were off in their own zone in this contest, making a number of miscues and mistakes that resulted in a lot of chances against and a sloppy remaining two periods.
“We weren't good tonight,” Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said. “We gave them opportunities. We didn't play at all at our game and then we got disjointed in our effort, we got disjointed in our game in the second. That wasn't anything close to where we need to play or want to play. It's the story of the game.”
Kris Letang had Pittsburgh’s only goal on a second-period power play. Marc-Andre Fleury made 20 saves for the Pens.
PENS START STRONG, BUT RANGERS FINISH
The Penguins may have started strong, but it was the Rangers who finished – taking a 2-0 lead into the first intermission off a pair of late goals.
The Penguins dominated from the drop of the puck. On the first shift of the game, Crosby absolutely asserted his will by skating up the ice and powering easily around the Rangers defenders, making them look like pylons on his way to nearly tucking the puck past Lundqvist.
But Crosby wasn’t able to score on that chance, nor the one he had just over five minutes into the period with the Penguins on their first power play. After some tremendous movement by the top unit, Crosby found himself at the side of the net with Lundqvist out of position – but his shot ended up going just wide and striking the netting instead.
Crosby wasn’t the only one making impressive plays early on. As a whole, the Pens did a great job of keeping their feet moving, protecting the puck and keeping possession and having extended offensive zone time as a result. It looked like the Rangers, especially their D, were going to have a rough night. But the Penguins couldn’t convert any of the chances they created and after those first few minutes, play evened out and became much more back-and-forth.
The teams started trading chances at an impressive rate, with the Rangers getting a lot more offensive zone time – partly the result of miscues on Pittsburgh’s end and partly because of how New York clogged up the passing lanes. And while Fleury bailed out his teammates on a number of fantastic scoring chances, the Rangers eventually broke through for their first with less than two minutes remaining in the period. They tacked on another one just over a minute later.
“I think after the first 10 minutes, several turnovers in the neutral zone led right to their opportunities to score,” Bylsma said. “And they got two on us there (where) we virtually gave them the opportunities with how we managed the puck, how we executed. They got up two and we got sloppy after that. Our power play had opportunities there and we weren't able to execute and we get sloppy with the puck, sloppy in D-zone coverage and they could have gotten -- they had more opportunities than they scored.”
For about a minute there, it looked like Letang had breathed life into the Pens with his power-play goal late in the second period that cut New York’s lead to 3-1. But it literally lasted for about a minute, as Rangers captain Ryan Callahan regained his team’s three-goal lead just 1:24 later. The quick response by the Rangers effectively stymied any momentum the Penguins had going for them, and they couldn’t battle back.
“Yeah, it's tough,” Crosby said. “We were doing some good things. Defensively, we weren't good. But I think we created a lot of chances and we've got to trust those chances are going to go in and got to find a way to at least get through that period down two going into the third. But they get that fourth one and it's an uphill climb from there.”
DUPUIS LEAVES GAME
Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis recorded his last shift of the game with 4:22 left in the second period. He did not return and Bylsma did not have an update following the game.
Author: Michelle Crechiolo