The Penguins opened a three-game home stint this afternoon, facing off against the New York Rangers for the third time this season. And, for the second time this season – the second time against the Rangers, the Penguins posted a shutout. Marc-Andre Fleury made 23 saves to post his 23rd career shut-out while becoming the all-timer franchise leader in that department. All in all, it was a GREAT day for hockey in the Steel City.
A minute and a half into the game, Beau Bennett notched his second NHL goal to open the scoring for Pittsburgh. Engaging in a race with New York’s Anton Stralman, Bennett was able to brush past the defenceman and retrieve the puck in the near circle. From there, he would rip a slap shot that beat Henrik Lundqvist top shelf, giving the Penguins a one to nothing lead. It would take almost ten minutes before the Rangers would register a shot on goal and the only things the team would exchange in the final ten minutes would be penalties and fisticuffs. Matt Cooke would block a shot late in the period and head down the runway immediately, returning to start the first. However, perhaps the most excitement of the period game when Sidney Crosby went toe-to-toe with Dan Girardi. Girardi had been taken liberties with the captain throughout the frame, punching him in the head at least three times before Crosby had had enough. With two and a half minutes left on the clock, both would be given roughing penalties. At the end of the first, Pittsburgh led by a single goal while outshooting the Rangers 12 to 4.
Despite dominating play early on in the second, the Rangers couldn’t muster a goal through the second period. Nor could the Penguins. The only penalty of the second frame came when Rick Nash was called for a trip against Rick Nash. The Rangers would outshoot the Penguins 10 to 7 this time round, but at the second horn, the scoreboard remained unchanged
With less than five minutes off of the clock in the final twenty, New York’s Stralman would be called for a trip against Tyler Kennedy. This would send the Penguins to their third power play of the afternoon and this time, Kennedy – that’s right – Kennedy – the same Kennedy who drew the penalty – was able to capitalize on the man advantage, earning Pittsburgh’s second goal of the afternoon and his fourth of the season. Kennedy was able to beat Lundqvist with a shot from a bad angle near the corner. (Maybe hanging out with James Neal is rubbing off a little.) With less than fourteen minutes left to go in regulation, the Penguins found themselves up 2 to 0. Less than a minute later, Pascal Dupuis earned his 14th of the season. Getting some help from Dustin Jeffrey who was able to use his speed to burst past the Rangers defence, Dupuis would pick up a pass and go forehand-backhand over a sprawling Lundqvist. With 48.9 seconds left to go in regulation, New York would ALMOST end Fleury’s shutout bid, but the goaltender would scramble to cover the puck up in the crease. And that was all they wrote! Pittsburgh would take the game, leading the best-of-five series against the Rangers 3 to 0 halfway through the shortened season.
Kris Letang and Paul Martin both banked 25:35 of ice time while Brooks Orpik (sporting a visor that saved his face late in the second) had 22:45. Pascal Dupuis and Kris Letang each registered four shots on goal while Tyler Kennedy had three, contributing to the 27 shots the Penguins sent toward Lundqvist. Tyler Kennedy and Dustin Jeffrey both enjoyed a two point game.
The team continues to be without Evgeni Malkin who did skate this morning. Malkin will be out for at least another week with an upper-body injury.
Pittsburgh will hit the ice again tomorrow afternoon, taking on the Bruins for the second time in less than a week. Game time is 12:30pm.