Backed by Tomas Vokoun's shutout, the Pens beat the Rangers for the second time this season at Madison Square Garden.
Shutouts don't always have to look good, but this one certainly felt great.
The Pens came to Manhattan with their tails between their legs but can head home with a solid win in their belts. The Ryan Callahan-less Rangers couldn't solve Tomas Vokoun who recorded his 49th-career shutout and first in a Penguins jersey.
Evgeni Malkin got things started early with a goal 90 seconds in. Snipe job from Malkin's sweet spot on the top of the circle. Great pass from Simon Despres. Despite the early lead, nothing would calm Pens fans down more than some consistent play which, well...didn't really happen for most of the game.
Both teams exchanged penalties throughout the second, the Pens closing the period on a power play. In the third, it took James Neal less than 30 seconds to redirect a perfect pass from Sidney Crosby. Through-the-legs tip that went just under the crossbar. And hey, it's a power play goal!
Things got interesting as we neared the halfway mark of the third. The Rangers hit the post twice in the span of a few minutes. The first ricocheted back through Vokoun's legs who was still trying to find the puck. It's moments like this that you sit back in your chair and think, wow, this must be our lucky night. And we know how many times we've been on the other side. Anton Stralman then hit the post at the end of a Rangers power play and the puck was cleared, chased down by Pascal Dupuis who proceeded to take advantage of Marc Staal's terrible clearing attempt and sent a lead pass to Despres who was out of the penalty box. Despres was all alone and made it count.
Overall, an odd game. Pens didn't play a complete game but these messy two points were just what the Pens needed.
More random odds and ends:
- Crosby was getting jostled a bit. Dan Girardi put a little body on him after a whistle and was prompty sent to the box. Most notably was a boarding non-call (in Crosby's opinion) that came from Michael Del Zotto early in the game. Crosby definitely wasn't pleased with the non-call which brings up this point...
- Whether or not that's boarding is questionable, but what's getting frustrating is how inconsistent the refs are calling these penalties. Chris Kunitz was whistled down for two boarding calls in previous games doing just about the same thing.
- Passing is a good thing and the Pens had plenty of problems stringing passes together. I get it. I'm not one of those SHOOT people, but boy was I yelling it out multiple times from my living room. I'm looking at you, Kris Letang. Too many missed opportunities on the power play. Other than the Pens' overall poor ability to enter the offensive zone, the power play suffers from way too much passing. Get the puck on net and get a messy goal once in a while. It did wonders for Neal this game.
- Speaking of the power play, it was impressive to see the aggressiveness in the Pens' penalty kill. At times, they were more aggressive than the Pens' power play. But if we're having issues scoring on the power play regularly, the least we can do is make life difficult for the opposition's power play.
- Did the crowd seem Consol Energy Center-quiet? I can understand that the game was even for only a minute and a half, but not the same energy we typically get at the legendary MSG.
- Vokoun. What's there to say about that hasn't been said? Solid and cool as a cucumber in net again. He made that shutout look like he was eating an ice cream cone.
- As expected, people are sentencing Marc-Andre Fleury to the bench but right now, I think the switch off is good right now, but down the stretch, who knows what will happen.
- Neal has three goals in 10 shots at MSG this season.
- Pens were literally being out-muscled most of the game. Hits were in favor of the Rangers 34-22.
- I've been really impressed with the fourth line. Stats-wise, there's not much there, but they're a force every time they take the ice. You can never underappreciate what players like Craig Adams and Joe Vitale do each game.
- Robert Bortuzzo played his first game of the season. I hardly realized he was playing. Always a good thing when it comes to defensemen
Pens need to keep their foot on the gas. We have the New Jersey Devils Saturday afternoon and quick trip to DC for the Washington Capitals on Sunday. Keep trudging forward.