The Pittsburgh Penguins overtook the New York Rangers 3-0 Sunday night at CONSOL Energy Center to head to the Big Apple for a Monday night tilt with the series tied 1-1. The story lines from the game are below...
FLEURY & LUNDQVIST STAND TALL
On a night when the Penguins dominated play throughout the game, it was the men between the pipes that were the best players on the ice for each team.
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist made save-after-save in the second period, denying Pittsburgh scoring chances that seemed destined for the back of the net after tic-tac-toe passing sequences created open looks on multiple occasions.
The Penguins finally broke through in the second period when a Kris Letang centering pass that was intended for Chris Kunitz ricocheted off Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi’s stick and sneaked past the Swedish netminder.
Pittsburgh beat Lundqvist in the second, but it was the outstanding play of Lundqvist that kept New York within one goal heading into the final 20 minutes.
It wouldn’t be until there was 3:30 left in the game that the Pens would break through again and establish a critical 2-0 lead when Jussi Jokinen buried a rebound from a James Neal wrist shot on the power play.
“(Lundqvist) was probably their best player,” Jokinen said. “He made some great saves and gave their team a chance to win. We need to keep putting shots on the net and finding rebounds and we’ll keep scoring goals.”
As well as Lundqvist played, Marc-Andre Fleury’s play was equally as brilliant, if not more so, and the only difference seemed to be that Fleury was all over pucks in front of his own net, swallowing up any potential second chance opportunities.
Fleury finished the game with 22 saves for his seventh career playoff shutout – the most in franchise history.
“He was very good tonight,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “The calmness and how he made the saves… It made it feel like it wasn’t as many [chances]. But the puck was in the crease a little bit and he played it really well. He deserved the shutout tonight.”
CROSBY WANTS IT
Amidst questions about his play recently, Sidney Crosby delivered a game to remember in Game 2 against the Rangers, even though he still hasn’t scored in 13 consecutive postseason games.
Crosby almost gave the Penguins the chance to head into the locker room for the first intermission up 1-0 as he maneuvered through two Rangers to ultimately hit a shot over the cross bar during a 4-on-4. He finished the game with six shots, 20:44 of ice time and went 50 percent in the faceoff circle.
Forward Brian Gibbons said despite not scoring, Crosby was flying in tonight’s game.
“(Crosby) was awesome,” Gibbons said. “That’s the best I’ve seen him play in a long time. He’s had games where he’s had more points than he had tonight, but I’ve never seen someone win so many battles and take their best hits and just keep going and through them and around them and by them. I think everyone just kind of followed his lead.”
Throughout the week, Crosby, his teammates and head coach Dan Bylsma were peppered with questions about Crosby and his lack of goal scoring so far in these playoffs, but Bylsma said it best when he said that if the team keeps winning, Crosby is going to be happier than if Crosby was producing and the team was not before the 3-0 win on Sunday.
“You’d be crazy to think a player like Sidney Crosby goes that many games (without scoring) and doesn’t think about it,” Bylsma said. “It would be tough not to. He’d like to not have the goose egg, but it’s all about winning right now. We win tonight and Sid doesn’t have a goal, he’s going to be a lot happier than if it’s the other way.”
PENALTY KILL CONTINUES TO EXCEL
The Penguins dominated the first shift of the game on Sunday night.
But, 40 seconds into the contest they were tested for the first time. After Chris Kunitz took a goalie interference penalty, the Pens’ penalty-killing unit went to work.
Pittsburgh worked effectively as a unit, clearing the puck down repeatedly and keeping the Rangers chances to the outside while killing off the Kunitz minor.
The momentum from the first 40 seconds would be re-captured from the Pens, but not until they killed off two more minor penalties in the first 9:33 of the game.
“Maybe the penalty killers set the tone for us,” Bylsma said. “Maybe it was them stepping over the boards in those situations. You are not happy about having to kill three in a row but they do a great job for us and I thought, to a man, our players were extremely good tonight.”
The Pittsburgh PK continued to be a strong point Sunday and has been an integral part of their playoff success of late. The special teams unit has killed 13 of the last 14 opposition power-play opportunities (92.9%), including all eight chances New York has had in the series.
“It might have been our best penalty kill of the year,” Bylsma said. “Just winning pucks, clearing pucks, winning races and getting it down the ice. It was there all night long from the top line to the bottom line to every defenseman. I thought we were able to gain momentum from there and just play.”
The Pens’ penalty kill got a nice boost when Gibbons made his return to lineup Sunday night, replacing Tanner Glass who was scratched. Gibbons had missed the past five games with an undisclosed injury after leaving Game 2 against Columbus midway through the first period.
He finished the game with 10:14 of ice time, 2:57 of which was spent shorthanded for the Penguins. He also returned to his old spot on the first line with Crosby and Kunitz for part of the game.
“I felt pretty good,” Gibbons said after the game. “I think I was able to skate -- which was good -- the past couple of weeks, even though I wasn’t playing games. I was able to stay in shape and I had fresh legs, so I felt good out there.”
Bylsma said that Gibbons had a hand in the Penguins’ game right from the get-go.
“I thought (Gibbons) had an impact in the game,” Bylsma said. “From his penalty kill early on, he did a really good job on the penalty kill … His speed was a factor. In the first period he had a shift with Crosby and Kunitz and was a factor with his speed. I don’t think he adds a physical element to our team that affects the other team, but he does it with his speed. He certainly did it tonight. He was reliable defensively with his speed, a factor in the game as well.”
- Evgeni Malkin’s assist on Letang’s goal coupled with his empty-net goal gave him sole possession of fourth place on the Penguins all-time playoff-scoring list with 107 postseason points.
- With his goal, Letang is now tied for first place with Larry Murphy with 15 postseason goals as a Pittsburgh defenseman. The goal was originally credited to Kunitz, but after official review was changed to Letang.
- With the win, Marc-Andre Fleury now has 50 postseason wins, making him only the second goaltender in Penguins’ history to reach that milestone (Tom Barrasso, 56 wins). He also moved into sole possession of the most postseason shutouts in Penguins’ history with seven.
Authors: Addison Smith and Dave Uhrmacher
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