After dropping Game 1 in a lackluster effort, the Pittsburgh Penguins turned it around in a major way, beating the New York Rangers 3-0 in Game 2.
Without the spectacular night of Ranger goalie Henrik Lundqvist, it could have easily been double or triple the score.
Early in the game, the Pens didn't get off to the best of starts, taking three unanswered minor penalties in the first 7:04 of the game. Some were bad calls- like Chris Kunitz getting pushed into Lundqvist and still rung up. But some were ones a player has to know better- like Matt Niskanen clearly making contact to the head of Daniel Carcillo (who probably didn't need to embellish, but did anyways to seal the call).
Luckily for the Pens, the Rangers hapless power play- which is now 0 for it's last 29- couldn't come close in even remotely scoring a goal in the first half of the period and Pittsburgh would escape without damage.
Then it was their turn to pepper Lundqvist with shot after shot. It took until the middle of the second period for the Pens to break the ice on the scoreboard, and even then it was an attempted pass by Kris Letang that clicked on defenseman Dan Girardi and eluded Lundqvist.
It was only 1-0 after two periods, even though the Pens were up on shots 26-17 and badly outplaying New York. One bad bounce or fluky play could have put the Rangers in a position to leave Pittsburgh up 2 games to 0.
Luckily though, that wasn't to be. The Pens wouldn't get an insurance goal until Jussi Jokinen collected a James Neal rebound and beat Lundqvist. Evgeni Malkin would cap the night with a great effort to seal the deal with an empty netter.
Fortunately for the Pens, for a Rangers team that looked tired tonight, Game 3 is tomorrow night. Most will say, probably rightly so, that momentum in hockey won't carry over from game to game, but energy levels can't drastically swing too much. New York, aside from their goalie, looked like a team without much gas in the tank after a hectic playoff season. Maybe playing at home and playing for pride will kick them into gear, but if not it could be another long night for them.
A few more thoughts on the game:
- 3 point night for Letang, who played his best game in recent memory. He was skating with confidence and jumping into the rush, helping to generate offense. Letang's been on the upswing for a couple games now and definitely had a big breakout tonight.
- One player who didn't break out yet was Sidney Crosby. Six shots and four more attempts show that the effort is there. And, it seemed that he had a little more burst in his skating than the past few games. Lundqvist was up to the challenge, but it was very encouraging to see Crosby skating by Ryan McDonaugh so cleanly and easily so many times out there.
- Brian Gibbons got back in the lineup for the first time since Game 2 of last series and his speed brought a little something to the table. Nice to see him jump back in and be successful.
- 35 hits for the Pens tonight, each player except Gibbons, Rob Scuderi and Malkin recorded a hit. That's indicative for the amount of back-checking and tracking the Pens did. They were very engaged, very active away from the puck and completed one of the best games of the season.
- >Career playoff shutout #7 and win #50 for Marc-Andre Fleury, who only had to make 22 saves. Not bad. Lundqvist probably made 10 better saves than Fleury's best, but it was only because the Penguins generated that many more scoring chances than they allowed.
Quick turnaround for Game 3, which seems like a good thing right now for the Penguins. The closer that Game 3 looks like Game 2, the better off it'll be for Penguin fans. Now the question is: can the team that looked so good and dominant tonight, be consistent enough to show up the same way tomorrow in Manhattan?