Pens' Aggressive Third Period Sets Tone in Win
Now that was more like it.
The Penguins, unhappy with the way they passively protected a 2-0 lead in the third period of Game 3 of their Second Round playoff matchup with the New York Rangers, wanted to play more aggressive the next time they had an advantage on the scoreboard.
The next time would be Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden in Game 4.
Pittsburgh entered the third period with a 2-1 lead. But instead of sitting on that lead like they did in Game 3 – a final period that saw the Penguins register one shot – Pittsburgh kept attacking.
The result was Pittsburgh scoring two goals on nine shots and sweeping their New York trip with a 4-2 victory that has given them a 3-1 series lead and pushed the Rangers to the brink.
“I thought we were better,” said center Brandon Sutter, who scored a shorthanded goal in the second period. “We knew they were going to push. They were a desperate team, playing desperate in the last half of the game.
“A much better job of not sitting back. We stayed on the forecheck. All pretty positive things in the third.”
The Penguins went into a completely defensive posture in Game 3 and spent the majority of the third period in their own zone. But the reverse occurred in the third period of Game 4.
“We had more push offensively. We pressured their D,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “When we did get a chance to go on a rush or when they turned over a puck we were aggressive at getting it to the net and trying to make a play and trying to score a goal. We had two goals because of that.
“That’s more what we’re trying to do when we have the lead.”
The Penguins aggressive play was evident on their first goal of the third period. James Neal, attacking on the forecheck, stole the puck from a Ranger and got it deep. Jussi Jokinen picked up the puck, skated around the back of the net and threw a shot on goal. The puck deflected off of New York defenseman Marc Staal and into the goal for a 3-1 lead.
The Rangers cut into that lead when Mats Zuccarello lifted a backhander past Marc-Andre Fleury with 6:53 to play in the period.
The New York goal may have been deflating for the Penguins, especially if Pittsburgh was already playing in a defensive mode. But the Penguins were attacking the whole period. So as soon as puck dropped after the goal, the Penguins went back to work.
Pittsburgh answered in less than a minute – 57 seconds to be exact – when Chris Kunitz came through with a clutch tally to reclaim a two-goal lead at 4-2.
“Our top line goes out and answers, that’s pretty deflating if you’re on their side,” Niskanen said. “A huge response.”
For the Penguins, being aggressive and playing in the offensive zone was even more important in the third period considering the team was down to just five defensemen after Brooks Orpik left the game with an undisclosed injury after the first period.
“If you have five D and you spend too much time in your end you’re asking for trouble,” Niskanen said. “It’s a matter of time.
“I thought we did a good job of five guys coming out together and got it going the other way quickly so we didn’t spend too much energy (in the defensive zone).”
Now the Penguins have a chance to end this series Friday night in Pittsburgh for Game 5 at CONSOL Energy Center.
“Their backs are against the wall and it’s going to be really hard, but it’s a heck of an opportunity for us,” Niskanen said. “We’re going home. I think we have to really go after that. If they win a road game and come home then momentum can start to turn. We have to be all in on Friday night.”