Adam Williams The Hockey Writers
Crosby and Crew Shine Bright as Pens Tie the Series
The Pittsburgh Penguins evened up the series against the New York Rangers on Saturday, coming away with the 4-3 victory. Sidney Crosby scored twice, Chris Kunitz had three points (G, 2A), and Marc-Andre Fleury saved 23 shots.
Evgeni Malkin also saved a tying goal midway through the third period. While he did not show up on the score sheet, that swipe of the stick to stop the Rangers from tying the game was pivotal.
In Game One, it was the bottom six forwards for the Penguins that inspired their energy, that created chances. In Game Two, however, the roles were reversed and the stars came to play. The four mentioned above did their part, but David Perron added an assist and was physical all game. Patric Hornqvist also had an assist and was as persistent as ever on the forecheck.
Also, let’s not forget about how well Brandon Sutter played in the contest. He opened up the scoring for the Penguins and capped off the night with an assist on Kunitz’s game-winning power play marker.
What To Take Away
The Little Victories
Heading into this series, it was thought by many that the Rangers could sweep the Penguins. It is no secret the Penguins had been playing sub-par hockey for quite some time. The Rangers, the President’s Trophy winner and overall number one seed, should have no issue with the flightless birds, right?
Wrong. The Penguins have stepped up their game and proven that they will not be pushovers, nor will they go quietly into the night. Could they still lose the next three games? Potentially, but at least they’ll live to see Game Five, minimum.
Avoid the Sweep: Check.
Fleury steals one in New York: Check.
Crosby finds his game: Check.
Have the chance to completely shift the momentum of the series: Monday and Wednesday will tell.
Need to Be in Control
The biggest issue in Game One for the Penguins was their inability to be disciplined. They took five minor penalties in first meeting and the goal by Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh in the first period turned out to be the winner. With hopes that this would be controlled on Saturday night, the Penguins got worse.
Seven minor penalties. Six kills.
On paper, that’s a decent stat, but when watching the games and knowing what all is on the line, there is no defending taking seven penalties against the top team in the NHL. Were some of the calls ticky-tacky? Of course and so were some on the Rangers, but the Penguins cannot allow themselves to get wrapped up in trading special teams chances for the rest of the series. They need to become more disciplined, somehow, someway.
Metaphorically, that’s what the Game Two victory is for the Penguins; a second chance to get their season righted and to play the way they know they can. Visually, it was what happened in Game Two for the Penguins.
Sutter’s power play goal was a rebound he swatted in past Henrik Lundqvist. Crosby’s first goal was from Hornqvist’s effort to get the puck to the net and force Lundqvist to make saves in tight. Kunitz’s feed to Crosby for his diving goal was due to the Rangers’ inability to clear the zone. Lastly, Kunitz’s power play goal was off of a Sutter rebound.
The Penguins found lanes, crashed the net, and disrupted Lundqvist, who made 18 saves on 22 shots. They will not beat Lundqvist with ten, fifteen, twenty foot wrist shots with no traffic, nor will they do that on single shots alone. The Penguins were a faster, more determined team; something we who follow them have not seen in a long time. The key beating the Rangers, other than slowing down their transition game, is to force Lundqvist to make save after save after save, and so on. Second, third, and even fourth chances will be needed.
While all the positives in Game Two were exciting and uplifting, in a way, they were just that; Game Two’s storylines. Can Crosby carry over his new offensive spark? Will Kunitz maintain his level of play? Can the penalty killers and Fleury continue to steal the series and shock the Blue Shirts? Time will tell, but if Game Two is any indication of what this series could turn out to be, Penguin fans have to be excited.
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