Shots, shots and more shots. Bill Guerin was a late scratch for the Pittsburgh Penguins, the veteran took pre-game warm-ups but could not go due to back spasms, so defenseman Jay McKee would dress and the Pens used 11 forwards and 7 D.
The Pens' overwhelming puck possession and willingness to put pucks on net from any distance and direction was the key. Through regulation they out-shot the New York Rangers 50-16. Figuring in shots attempted (blocked and missed) the Pens held a staggering 80-39 edge. Pascal Dupuis had 10 shots by himself! The Rangers only managed one shot in the 3rd period, and it came from a bad angle 15:30 in, and the fans threw out a Bronx cheer in Manhattan. They had a full 2 minute powerplay during that stint too, but for most of the second half of the game NYR could barely control the puck in the neutral or offensive zone. It was a pure puck possession, cycling, shooting clinic.
The only reason the game went to extra time was that New York got to Marc-Andre Fleury early. They chased Marc-Andre Fleury, who played his first game in almost three weeks. Fleury wasn't sharp, as you might expect, but after surrendering four goals on just 12 shots, he was lifted in favor of backup Brent Johnson.
Undeterred, the Pens kept rocketing shots at the net; 17 in the 2nd period, 19 in the 3rd, and 4 more in OT. They kept going to the well over and over again, and by the time Evgeni Malkin unleashed a rocket on the PP, Henrik Lundqvist could only collapse to all fours.
It was a hit parade too - the Pens were credited with 50, led by Dupuis and Mike Rupp both with 7. The Rangers got 41, led by Olli Jokinen, Vinny Prospal and Ryan Callahan with 5 a piece. It was a physical and chippy game, even if perhaps the scorekeeper might have gotten a little trigger happy.
- Lundqvist made several game-saving stops, however a lot of the shots were from bad angles or far distances without much traffic in front, which makes it easy. Then again, two Penguin goals came from bad angles that took weird bounces. Like the old Thomas Jefferson saying goes: "I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have", and with a total of 90 shot attempts, you're bound to get a fortunate bounce or two along the way.
- Every Penguin except Mark Eaton and Tyler Kennedy had at least a shot on net. And TK had 5 shot attempts. Like the old Evgeni Malkin saying goes: "Shoot more, shoot everybody". Yes, Geno, they certainly did.
- Will this game take it's toll? Sidney Crosby was right in the middle of a lot of physical action and played 24:30, Malkin recorded 25:07, Sergei Gonchar got 25:14 of ice-time. Those guys have played a ton of hockey lately, and with two weekend afternoon games coming up, you have to wonder if they'll be feeling the effects of this later on. But hey, when the game's on the line, and when there's only 11 forwards in the lineup, what are you going to do?
- Rupp had four goals in the six games of the season series against the New York Rangers, which projects to a 55 goal pace over the course of a full season. Just sayin'.
- Michal Rozsvial scored his second goal of the season tonight, his first goal since November when he scored his first goal against....The Penguins. Go figure.
- Chris Drury scored a PP goal that will make the post-season highlight reel. He collected a rebound and scored. Oh, did I mention that he was on his knees, with his back facing the goal the entire time? Beauty of a goal.
- But in every goal, there's a breakdown. Jordan Leopold had a chance to clear the puck, but failed to do so. Jay McKee gave up inside positioning to Drury in an effort to get out and block the point-shot. But he failed to do so and Drury made a terrific play.
- A three point night for Chris Kunitz (1g, 2a), Jordan Staal also went 1 and 2, two apples for Gonchar, Crosby
scoredgot an assist and Malkin's goal that Jordan Staal tipped extended his point streak to 15 games. (Scoring changes can suck it). The big guns put up the numbers.
- Speaking of streaks, the Pens quietly have taken points in the standings away in six straight games now (3-0-3) and this win jumps them above the New Jersey Devils by 1 point (though NJD does have a game in hand). The race for the Atlantic is in full-swing.
- Dupuis stood out with the 10 shots and 7 hits. It's assumed he might get bumped to the 4th line once Alexei Ponikarovsky joins the club for next game, but with the way he's playing perhaps that's a little too quick. At the same time Ruslan Fedotenko had an assist, 2 shots and 3 hits and played well too. That line is really picking it up and playing well. Having too many players playing well is about the best problem to have, it sure beats the alternative.
And all this without two of the team's Top 6 forwards. The Penguins are not a perfect team, they need to knock the rust of Fleury who is going to have to be a lot sharper down the stretch than he was tonight. But no individual game ever unfolds quite the way one might expect, and given the effort and shot domination, it can't be considered a bad night...
...And somewhere Henrik Lundqvist flinches, anticipating another puck flying towards his crease.