Key Observations Heading Into Game 3 Between the Penguins and Rangers

The Pens Nation Gameday Report

The Pittsburgh Penguins did some good things in Game 1 of their Best-of-7 series with the New York Rangers. However, they did not play a full 60 minutes, which ended up costing them the game. Pittsburgh bounced back in Game 2 last night by shutting out the Rangers 3-0 to tie the series at 1. The Penguins are now 3-0 this postseason in games after a loss. Pittsburgh’s stars came out to shine last night as Kris Letang, Marc-Andre Fleury and Evgeni Malkin contributed to the win in a big way. Letang arguably had his best game of the postseason by tallying a goal and 2 assists. His goal in the second period tied him with Larry Murphy for the franchise postseason record for goals by a defenseman. Fleury made 22 saves in his 7th career postseason shutout, which gives him the team record. Malkin added an empty net goal in the third period and assisted on Letang’s goal. Jussi Jokinen had the other goal for Pittsburgh, which came with the man advantage. But what about that Sidney Crosby guy? He did not have any points and did not have a goal for the 13th straight postseason game. However, he was one of the best players on the ice and showed flashes of the player all hockey fans have seen him be. Crosby led the Penguins in shots with 6 and also had a few that missed the net. He was flying out there and looked like he was going to break out of his scoring slump very soon. Crosby made a few dazzling moves around New York defenders to get some great chances on Henrik Lundqvist, who was brilliant last night for the Rangers. It had to be frustrating for New York knowing that they wasted a tremendous game from their goaltender.

Seeing Crosby play at a high level last night was very encouraging for the Penguins. They hope it means that Crosby will break out soon and when he does, the Rangers will be in trouble. Lundqvist will need to play well again tonight at Madison Square Garden in order for New York to regain the series lead. The game last night could have been 5-0 without his great performance. One of the most bizarre stories of this postseason has been the power play units of the Rangers. New York is currently clicking at an 8.1% rate on the power play in the playoffs, which is way below expectations considering their roster includes Martin St. Louis, Rick Nash, Brad Richards and Mats Zuccarello. In fact, the Rangers have failed to score a power play goal in their last 29 opportunities with the man advantage. The Penguins took 3 early penalties in the first period and gave the Rangers a chance to take an early commanding lead. However, Pittsburgh killed all 3 and played great on the penalty kill all game long. Brian Gibbons was a big part of that as he replaced Tanner Glass in the lineup. Glass is one of the most physical forwards Pittsburgh has, but Dan Bylsma thought Gibbons’ speed would help the Penguins based on New York’s style of play. Under new coach Alain Vigneault, the Rangers try to use their speed to get by opponents, which is a style the Penguins do not mind countering. The score sheet from last night wouldn’t suggest Gibbons made a huge impact on the game, but his speed was crucial to Pittsburgh’s penalty kill. He also spent time on the 1st line with Crosby and Chris Kunitz. As long as he is healthy, I would expect to see Gibbons back in there tonight, especially since the Rangers may be getting tired. Tonight’s game will be their 5th game in 7 days, which is highly unusual. Vigneault told the media last night after the game that fatigue is not an excuse, however.

The Penguins hope to continue their success at Madison Square Garden tonight. Bylsma’s record as the Penguins coach in the Rangers’ home building is an impressive 9-4. In Pittsburgh’s history, the Penguins have won more road games at Madison Square Garden than any other venue on the road. In order to take the series lead for the first time against the Rangers, Pittsburgh will need another great performance from Fleury and their defense. The Penguins’ defense played great in Game 2 and will look to do so again tonight. Sometimes the best defense is generating offense and that is exactly what the Penguins did last night. If they can play another 60 minute game again tonight, they will have a good chance to win with their talent even if Lundqvist has another great performance in net.