Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs. All options seem possible, any possibility is there, even for a team that's banged up, got in the playoffs on the last day playing against the best regular season team in the league.
The hope lasted 32 seconds.
That's all it took for the Rangers to regroup, throw a long pass up to Rick Nash, who uncorked a slapshot on Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury kicked a rebound out right into the slot. Derick Brassard (who we told you to watch) was right there and made no mistakes.
The parade to the penalty box started next for the Pens, both real and bogus. Chris Kunitz barely touched Henrik Lundqvist, but his intentions were bad enough to get rung up. Taylor Chorney takes out Tanner Glass with the puck in the area, interference. The Pens killed those off but couldn't kill off when Blake Comeau and Dominic Moore got in a grappling match, but in the eyes of the official only Comeau stepped over the line.
Just like that the Pens were down 2-0, the #1 thing we said couldn't happen in the first period, courtesy of Ryan McDonagh shooting a fairly stoppable point shot by Fleury.
After 1 it looked like the Penguins didn't belong, but luckily they would regain some composure for the second period.
Blake Comeau scored for the Pens after some nice network by Maxim Lapierre to put the Pens on the board. Unfortunately, they wouldn't get back any further as that was the end of the goal scoring. Rangers take Game 1 2-1.
A few more thoughts on the game:
- After a little bit of a rocky start, Fleury was great for the rest of the game. Early in the game his rebound game was everywhere. Later on, he buckled down. In a lot of ways, it was shades of last series vs. NYR: The Pens give up a couple goals early, play better late but can't come all the way back. Fleury stopped 36/38 and was really steady late, thankfully so. It looked as if the Pens were in deep trouble but he helped stabilize them, no doubt.
- The war of attrition in the NHL playoffs has begun and it didn't take long. Rob Scuderi took a stick to the nose on a shot follow through by Kevin Hayes, sending Scuds off for repairs for a while. Later, Dan Girardi took a puck right to seemingly the jaw from close range in the 3rd period, he would not return.
- Lapierre's best game as a Penguin. By far. Which isn't saying a lot, but he found his "playoff gear". It seemed like he got in Lundqvist's head the most, since the keeper was chatting with the refs shortly after the Pens goal. Lapierre was good in the faceoff circle (9 of 15 for 60%) and had 3 hits and some good PK work. Nice night for him, he has to be a pest and show some energy and he did. More, please.
- Steve Downie took a pretty poor penalty in the 3rd by hitting a player and then extending it. After all the talk of accountability and discipline, he does that. Granted, it didn't look much worse than anything anyone else does, but can't complain he went the extra mile. And yet the team still played him after that regularly. Why?
- David Perron took a needless slashing penalty and didn't do much else. He isn't looking good on a line with Evgeni Malkin, especially on the right wing. The Pens need to adjust and put him on the left side, even if it's down a line. Something, anything, he just needs a kick to get going.
- Did Chris Kunitz play? One shot (the one that went into Girardi's face) a penalty and not much else. The Pens could use a lot more from a bunch of guys, but I would put Perron and Kunitz at the top of the list right now.
- Brian Dumoulin and Taylor Chorney were hanging on for dear life, but they hung on. It's pretty remarkable really that the Pens played a game against a strong team with those 2 (and Scuderi) and still were in it to the end. Good for them, but if the Pens get better puck movers like Derrick Pouliot and Christian Ehrhoff back from injury, the breakouts might be better and the results might be too. Time will tell.
- And the coaching deserves some praise too. Fleury was great from the 2nd period on, but the team seemed to get back into the swing of it as well, after looking like they didn't belong early in the game. That might not be something tangible to build on, but just maybe it will.
In a seven game series, for the underdog, you gotta take one of the first two games on the road to really establish that it's going to be a long series. The Pens hung in there, but couldn't get the job done tonight. But hey, they showed some signs of life and have some adjustments to make with their zone exits and offensive strategies. More pucks to the net. Better passes. More discipline. Pittsburgh lost tonight, but in the big scheme of things, if they can build off the fact that they carried some play and showed some life, maybe they can get a better result on Saturday.