Despite a great 1st period start, the Pittsburgh Penguins gave up a 2-goal lead in the 2nd and had to scratch their way back into a tie in the 3rd to send it into overtime where they lost to the New York Rangers on Saturday night. The Penguins did manage to come away from the game with a point, but also added a point of separation between themselves and their division rival Rangers.
In the 1st, Sidney Crosby played like a man obsessed. The Penguins jumped out of the gate and put a lot of pressure on the Rangers’ stingey defense and on league leading tender Henrik Lundqvist. Were it not for Lundqvist, the score might well have been 4-0 at the end of one. The first goal of the game was an emotional one. With Ryan Malone in the box for tripping, Coach Therrien put Sidney Crosby out on the penalty kill with Maxime Talbot. With less than 30 seconds to go on the kill, Talbot laid down and blocked a Rangers’ shot high in the slot which bounced to the side walls where Crosby picked it up and took off down the ice. Talbot quickly recovered and raced down the center of the ice to the Rangers’ net where he was fed a beautiful cross-ice pass from Crosby that eluded 2 Rangers’ defensemen. Talbot poked the puck into the net on the open side of Lundqvist for an outstanding short-handed goal. The play at 5:51 extended Crosby’s point streak to 19 games, and ignited the team. Exactly 3-minutes later, Ryan Malone drew a delayed tripping penalty on the Rangers’ as the Penguins drove hard into the offensive zone. In the ensuing 6-on-5 with Fleury pulled from the net, the Penguins swarmed the Rangers’ zone. A blocked shot deflected to the left of Lundqvist where Sidney Crosby quickly collected the puck and threw it into the net from the bad angle. Sergei Gonchar and Petr Sykora were credited with the assists to give the Penguins a 2-0 advantage at the end of the 1st. The Penguins outshot the Rangers 12-11.
In the 2nd, it was a completely different game. The Rangers came out firing on all cylinders and the Penguins couldn’t seem to get it back in gear. The Rangers got on the board quickly with an even strength tally at 0:49 from Michal Rozival on a shot that went high glove side past Fleury. Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Hollweg picked up the assists. At 4:05, the Rangers picked up a short-handed goal of their own off from the stick of Michal Rozival, this time assisted by Sean Avery and Marc Staal. The Rangers finished their 2nd period romp with a power-play goal by Daniel Girardi to make it 3-2 while Rob Scuderi sat for 2 minutes on a hooking call. Petr Prucha and Fedor Tyutin were credited with the assists. The Penguins were afforded 1 power play opportunity early in the 2nd that they didn’t capitalize on, and were short-handed 3-times due to infractions by Christensen, Ruutu and Scuderi. The Penguins were outshot 10-8 in the 2nd and were 0 for 1 on the power play. The Rangers were 1-for-3 on the power play.
The 3rd period was probably one of the tightest played periods I have seen this season, with neither team getting many chances. The Penguins were finally able to tie the score on their 2nd shot of the period at 14:58. With the Penguins buzzing, Eric Christensen fired a shot that deflected off the rear boards to Evgeni Malkin, who kicked the puck to Petr Sykora. Sykora laced it past Lundqvist to force the overtime frame. Christensen and Malkin picked up the assists, extending Malkin’s scoring streak to 13-games. The shots were 4-3 Rangers in the 3rd with the Penguins successfully killing off the only penalty of the period (Malkin for hooking at 11:50).
At 1:40 of the overtime frame, Jason Strudwick beat Marc-Andre Fleury on a 2-on-1 breakout to give the Rangers the win and the extra point. Strudwick, who managed to get behind defenseman Sergei Gonchar, took a cross-crease pass and put it inside the near post past Marc-Andre Fleury. Paul Mara and Scott Gomez were credited with the assists on what was the only shot recorded between the 2-teams in overtime. The goal gave the Rangers their 5th straight win. “All I tried to do was get my stick on it and push it to the net,” said Strudwick, whose last goal came January 28, 2007 (also against Pittsburgh).
With the win, New York overtook the Flyers for the Atlantic Division lead. All 4 Rangers’ goals came from defensemen as they completed a 4-game road sweep. “When you have tight hockey like that, often times those defensemen are very much part of the offense,” Rangers coach Tom Renney said. Regarding the Rangers’ defensive output, Marc-Andre Fleury said, “They have pretty good forwards. Usually if I can stop them, I’m in good shape.” Referring to the Rangers finding 100% of their offense from the defensemen, Penguins coach Michel Therrien noted, “That’s a sign that things are going well for you , and things are going really well for the Rangers right now. You’ve got to give a lot of credit to that team.”
The loss was a tough one for the Penguins who were fortunate to yield a point against the best defensive team in the league. “We had a two-goal lead early and weren’t able to build on it,” Sidney Crosby said. “Lundqvist held them in the game. We get that third goal, we bury them. We had our chances. It’s just taking advantage of our chances,” he continued. “I hit a post and we had a couple of 2-on-1s (and didn’t score). They get that one 2-on-1 in overtime and capitalize.” And so the Penguins woes continue.
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The Penguins hit the ice again on Wednesday night when they host the Devils in a Thanksgiving eve game.