For not registering an official shot on goal for the first 15 minutes of the first period, the Pittsburgh Penguins still played reasonably well early, besides a split second on a change where Keith Yandle hit Carl Hagelin up the seem. Hagelin settled down the puck and blasted a slapper by Marc-Andre Fleury to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead, the sixth straight time in the playoffs (dating back to last season) where New York has struck before Pittsburgh.
The Rangers would score a second goal in the second period off rather, ah shall we say favorable circumstances. With Maxim Lapierre skating up the ice, Dan Boyle got away with a pretty obvious hooking penalty that wasn't called (despite the Pens getting rung up for all kinds of stick penalties) which quickly led back the other way to Marc Staal shooting wide and Chris Kreider collecting the rebound nicely for the put-back goal. No problem with that play, well done by the Rangers, it's the officiating that's been curiously one-sided so far. Alas, you can't control the whims of the NHL referees, can only hope that the arbitrary wheels of justice swing back the other way.
The Penguins wouldn't say die though, despite the long odds of being down 2-0 to a Henrik Lundqvist backed team, they dominated the 3rd period and made a huge push to tie. First, Patric Hornqvist would strike after an extended great shift by his line with Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby cycling and buzzing in the offensive zone.
But the Pens wouldn't find the equalizer in time. Despite outshooting NYR 13-7 in the final period (and seemingly holding the puck in the zone the whole time) they wouldn't get the next goal. Credit the Rangers for some good defense, Lundqvist for playing great as always, but man. Maybe next time they find a way.
A few more thoughts on the game:
- Really interesting wrinkle that NBC nerdnik Pierre McGuire picked up upon: every time Henrik Lundqvist collects the puck behind his net, he moves it up the wall and to the left side. The Penguins have keyed in on this and when they dump in and Lundqvist goes to get it, they are positioning a 2nd forward high on that side who's collecting the puck. We'll see if Lundqvist and the Rangers adjust, possibly passing back to the right side or by trying to go up the middle.
- Nice dive by Lundqvist in the 2nd too.
- A big function of the Pens low shot total is their defense not being able to start or lead breakouts on most shifts. Hard to get a shot on goal when the D isn't capable of moving the puck, as probably 3, 4 or even 5 of the Pens defensemen could be on any shift (depending on how charitable you want to be to some of their skills).
- Sidney Crosby hit a post in the first on a great chance that Patric Hornqvist generated when he started a shift with a big hit on the forecheck, eventually got the puck back and made another terrific 5-10 foot offensive zone pass.
- Refs have called and caught about everything that Pittsburgh has done, which is fine because they have done it, but uhh is Marc Staal invisible or something?
- Rangers tried to rely on Dominic Moore in the faceoff circle - letting their 4th line center take a team high 20 faceoffs on the night. It didn't work, he only won 35% of them. Pittsburgh has recently always been a better faceoff team than NYR and that is continuing this series. Hopefully it will pay off soon. Usual Pens beat-up target Derek Stepan actually had a good night in the circle, winning 6 of his 11 draws.
- The Pens defense has to move the puck better. They weren't good at it at any point, as Jonathan Willis tracked on twitter. And following along manually, I can say at least 2 of those 4 successful outlets were from Paul Martin. Which means everyone else, yiiikes.
- 6 shots on goal and 7 hits for Hornqvist. He was a buzzsaw. Kunitz looks a lot better too, now back on the top line.
- 0 shots on goal for Evgeni Malkin. It's tough when he's got David Perron (who isn't doing much), Blake Comeau (invisible in a top 6 role for a while) and Daniel Winnik as his main linemates. About the Pens biggest issue right now is figuring out how to get Malkin and the 2nd line rolling.
- Scott Wilson made his postseason debut with Beau Bennett missing the game with an "injury". Wilson didn't look bad and even finished his 1st career NHL game in his 2nd try.
- Marc-Andre Fleury did well to hold the Pens in the best he could, but yet again he allows the first (and second) goal of the game. It's about impossible to ask a goalie to stop a breakaway slapper or a rebound goal where Ian Cole doesn't pick up Kreider, but the Pens need a rabbit pulled out of their hats. They have to get better starts to not go into holes early, and it's not really on Fleury at this point- who is at least holding them into games late into the games to give them a chance and get a comeback.
Series 2-1 NYR, but the Pens played with desperation and made a big push late, it just ended up being too little, too late.