The Pittsburgh Penguins beat the New York Rangers 5-3 at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals series. Marc-Andre Fleury was huge in net as he stopped 36-of-39 shots and Hart Trophy finalist Evgeni Malkin loomed large with 2 powerplay goals and an assist. The Penguins’ special teams were the difference, however, as they went 2-for-2 on the powerplay and killed off all 5 New York powerplays, including two 5-on-3 chances for the Rangers. The Penguins remain unbeaten in the playoffs, becoming just the 11th team in the NHL’s long history to win the first 7-games in a playoff. The last team to do so was the 1994 New York Rangers, who ultimately went on to win the Stanley Cup that year.
In the 1st period, the Penguins jumped out to a quick lead at 1:02 on a beautiful passing play by the Penguins top line. Sidney Crosby stripped the puck off from Jaromir Jagr in the neutral zone and passed it up to Pascal Dupuis. Crosby then rushed the net and redirected a hard shot by Dupuis onto the net. Henrik Lundqvist made a beautiful pad save on Crosby, but failed to control the rebound which came off of his pads and onto the stick of Marian Hossa. Hossa wasted no time as he buried it in the Rangers’ net to make it 1-0. The Rangers bounced back at 14:32 as Martin Straka took advantage of a mad scramble in front of the net and threw the puck over a sprawling Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury had his hands full with Jaromir Jagr and two of his own teammates all in the crease and pushing on the net. The play was ultimately reviewed to confirm that the goal went into the net before it was dislodged. Jaromir Jagr and Paul Mara picked up the assists on the play. But less than 2-minutes later while playing on a line with Evgeni Malkin and Petr Sykora, Georges Laraque found the corner of the net over Lundqvist’s shoulder to make it 2-1. Malkin and Sykora got the asissts on the goal. The Penguins then found themselves on a 4-minute powerplay after a high-sticking call on Ryan Callahan for catching Hal Gill in the nose. The Penguins wasted little time as Evgeni Malkin blasted his 4th of the post-season into the net to make it 3-1. Sergei Gonchar and Marian Hossa set up the Malkin goal. At the end of the 1st period, the Penguins found themselves up 3-1, despite being outshot 15-9. The Penguins were 1-for-1 on the powerplay in the period.
In the 2nd period, the Rangers poured it on as they outshot the Penguins 14-4. Early in the period, the Penguins found themselves in penalty trouble as Sykora, Dupuis and Orpik all took back-to-back overlapping penalties that resulted in two 5-on-3 chances for the Rangers. But the Penguins were phenomenal on the penalty kill as they have been all series, and shutout the Rangers on the man advantage. As the period wore on, Jaromir Jagr and Martin Straka picked up their game to a frenetic pace to get themselves back in the game, and it worked. At 12:07, the Rangers finally managed to beat Marc-Andre Fleury as Ryan Callahan got his 2nd goal of the post-season from Scott Gomez and Sean Avery. Then at 13:11, Jaromir Jagr came around from behind the net and picked the high corner over Fleury’s right shoulder to tie the game 3-3. Scott Gomez and Martin Straka picked up the assists on the play. At this point in the game, the momentum had clearly shifted to the New York Rangers who were out-hustling the Penguins on every shift. Penguins’ coach Michel Therrien took a very wise timeout at this point in the game to slow the pace down and to chirp at his players. At 15:56 of the period, Ryan Hollweg took a bad boarding penalty on Petr Syokora that ultimately put the momentum back at the Penguins end of the ice. On the ensuing powerplay, Evgeni Malkin scored his 2nd of the night with another one of his signature blasts from the high circle area. Sergei Gonchar and Sidney Crosby picked up the assists on the play, as the Penguins restored a 1-goal lead.
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In the final period, the Penguins were outshot 10-4 but managed to score the only goal of the frame to make it 5-3. At 2:30, Kris Letang let a shot go from the point that was redirected between the legs of Henrik Lundqvist by Ryan Malone, who was left standing all alone 10-feet in front of net. Pter Sykora picked up the other assist on the play.The Penguins successfully killed off 2-penalties in the period, and were afforded no powerplay of their own, as they went on to win the game 5-3.
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For the Penguins, Evgeni Malkin picked up 3-points (2G, 1A), Marian Hossa (1G, 1A), Sidney Crosby (2A), Sergei Gonchar (2A), and Petr Sykora (2A) all notched 2-points. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 26-of-39 shots for a 0.923 save percentage.
The Penguins return to Madison Square Garden on Thursday night where they will be given the opportunity to sweep the series and keep their undefeated post-season record alive to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Penguins can thank their brilliant goaltending, solid defensive play, and pheneomenal special teams for their success so far this post-season. The Penguins have also found offensive contriubutions from all four lines. It is undeniable that this team has the momentum and the skill to go a long ways in this post season, as long as they continue to play their game.