Long Time No See: Pittsburgh and New York will meet in the playoffs for the first time since 1996. Pittsburgh, led by Mario Lemieux and current Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr, defeated New York in five games -- Lemieux and Jagr combined for a total of 19 points that series.
Season Match-up: In the eight conference games this season, the Rangers held the lead in wins with five, including all four games at Madison Square Garden. The last Pittsburgh victory at New York dates to March 1, 2007, when the Penguins took a 4-3 shootout decision. In the 2007-08 season match-up, Sidney Crosby led all scorers with 1-7--8 while Evgeni Malkin led in goals with five (5-2--7). Scott Gomez was the leading scorer for the Rangers with three goals (3-4--7).
YOU Again!: Penguins GM Ray Shero just might have been thinking about this match-up on Feb. 26 when he obtained 6-foot-7, 250-pound Hal Gill from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a second-round pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and a fifth-round selection in 2009. Gill, a left defenseman, has waged some memorable battles against Rangers RW Jaromir Jagr.
YOU Again 2!: Pittsburgh's LW Marian Hossa and RW Pascal Dupuis, acquired at the trade deadline from the Atlanta Thrashers, were swept out of the first round of the playoffs by the Rangers in 2007.
Former Penguin: Jaromir Jagr helped lead the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992. In 1992, the Penguins defeated the Rangers 4-2 in the division final, winning the last three games of the series. The Penguins then went on to sweep the Boston Bruins 4-0 and the Chicago Blackhawks 4-0. The Penguins' 11 consecutive wins tied the League record for most consecutive wins by one team in one playoff year, a record shared by the Chicago Blackhawks (1992) and Montreal Canadiens (1993).
Can You Top This?: This series will match two of the true ‘Super Pests,’ LW Jarkko Ruutu of the Penguins and LW Sean Avery of the Rangers.
No Mystery, Alaska: All four of the NHL’s Alaska-born players have advanced to the Conference Semifinal and three of them – C Brandon Dubinsky (Anchorage) and C Scott Gomez (Anchorage) of the Rangers, G Ty Conklin (Eagle River) of the Penguins – are in the Penguins-Rangers series. The other Alaska-born player in the Conference Semis is San Jose defenseman Matt Carle (Anchorage).
You Look Familiar: Penguins RW Pascal Dupuis played six games for the Rangers last season; RW Adam Hall appeared in 49 games for the Rangers last season, as well, and RW Petr Sykora played 40 games as a Ranger in 2005-06. Rangers RW Jaromir Jagr played his first 11 NHL seasons for the Penguins; C Martin Straka had two stints as a Penguin (1992-93 to 1994-95 and 1997-98 to 2003-04); D Michal Rozsival played his first four seasons as a Penguin. Rangers President/GM Glen Sather once played for the Penguins.
Family Feud: Rookie Rangers D Marc Staal, whose 22:45 of ice time places him second on the Rangers to Michal Rozsival’s 24:37, could well find himself on the ice against his older brother, Penguins C Jordan Staal.
Friendly Foe: Penguins D Kris Letang and Rangers D Marc Staal were members of the 2006 and 2007 Team Canada entries that won consecutive gold medals at the World Junior Championships. In 2006, Pittsburgh C Evgeni Malkin had 4-6--10 for the Russian team at the World Junior Championships, but was held off the scoresheet in the gold medal game -- in part by Letang and Staal.
You're My Shero: Penguins GM Ray Shero spent some of his early years in New York while his father, Fred, coached and/or managed the Rangers.
Stacking The Pads: New York G Henrik Lundqvist played all eight games against Pittsburgh and finished the series with a .916 save percentage. He is 12-6-3 all-time against Pittsburgh.
A New Yorker in Pittsburgh: Penguins D Rob Scuderi a native of Syosset, New York, played his junior hockey for NY Apple Core in Long Beach, New York before playing at Boston College.
NEW YORK RANGERS
NHL Playoff Appearance: 51st (3rd consecutive)
Stanley Cups: 4 (1928, 1933, 1940, 1994)
All-Time Playoff Series Record: 44-46
All-Time Playoff Game Record: 193-204-8
March 6/08 -- G Henrik Lundqvist defeats the Islanders and becomes only the second goalie in NHL history to begin his career with three consecutive 30-win seasons (Ron Hextall was the other, 1986-87 to 1988-89).
March 18/08 -- Against the Penguins, Lundqvist records his 100th career victory in his 187th career appearance, breaking the team record Mike Richter had set in his 198th game.
April 3/08 -- Lundqvist sets a franchise record by appearing in his 71st game of the season. He finished with 72.
RANGERS STORY LINES
Road Warriors: The Rangers won three games on the road in their Conference Quarter-Final conquest of the Devils and gave up just five goals to the Devils – two of them on power plays – at Prudential Center.
That’s Accurate: The Rangers’ Sean Avery shares the NHL lead in shooting percentage (33.3%) with three goals on nine shots. Scott Gomez isn’t far behind at 30% (three goals on 10 shots).
Youth Will Be Served: The Rangers have received critical contributions from four Calder-eligible players: D Marc Staal (21 years old), C Brandon Dubinsky (who turns 22 on April 29, the day of Game 3), LW Nigel Dawes (23) and RW Ryan Callahan (23).
Think Special Teams Are Important?: The Rangers scored four power-play goals against the Devils in the Conference Quarter-Final. Three of those goals provided a lead and the other one wiped out a one-goal deficit. They permitted five power-play goals; one of those goals put the Devils ahead and three others wiped out one-goal Ranger leads.
Drury's A Winner: It should come as little surprise that Rangers C Chris Drury led the team in game-winning goals this season with seven. He had nine with Buffalo last season before adding three in the playoffs. Drury also had a game-winning goal in the Conference Quarter-final against New Jersey . . . Drury also has four career playoff overtime winners, tying him with teammate Jaromir Jagr and the Sharks' Jeremy Roenick for second in the 2008 playoff field behind the eight overtime winners scored by Colorado's Joe Sakic . . . In addition to a 2001 Stanley Cup ring with Colorado, Drury helped pitch the Trumbull (Connecticut) team to the Little League World Series title in 1989, helped Boston University win the NCAA championship in 1996 and won the Calder Trophy in 1999.
Top Tandem: LW Brendan Shanahan (650 goals) and RW Jaromir Jagr (646) rank first and second, respectively, among active NHL players in all-time regular-season goals scored.
A Ring To It: Each of the Rangers' top four regular-season scorers -- Scott Gomez, Jaromir Jagr, Chris Drury and Brendan Shanahan -- has won at least one Stanley Cup. They have eight Cups between them (Drury 1, Gomez and Jagr 2 apiece, and Shanahan 3).
Defense by Committee: The top foursome of Michal Rozsival, plus youngsters Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and Fedor Tyutin, helped the Rangers cut their goals-against from last season's 216 to this season's 199. The Rangers had not allowed fewer than 200 goals in a full season since the 1971-72 season (192 goals-against in 78 games).
No Offense: The Rangers shut out the opposition 12 times this season, one short of the club record set by the 1928-29 Rangers across a 44-game schedule.
Strong Finishers: Over the concluding 30 games of the regular season, the Rangers went 18-5-7. Last season, the Rangers went 17-6-5 over their final 28 regular-season contests.
NHL Playoff Appearance: 22nd (2nd consecutive)
Stanley Cups: 2 (1991, 1992)
Last Playoff Series Win: 2008 (Conference Quarter-Final vs. Ottawa)
All-Time Playoff Series Record: 21-20
All-Time Playoff Game Record: 114-103
Dec. 8/07 -- The Penguins completed a three-game sweep of their 'Crosby-Mania' swing through Western Canada with a 2-1 shootout victory at Vancouver. In the most exciting stretch of the Penguins' season, the club scored four goals in the third period to defeat Edmonton 4-2 and posted consecutive shootout victories at Calgary and Vancouver.
Dec. 20/07 -- G Ty Conklin made his first career start in a Penguins uniform, stopping 37 shots and both shootout attempts in a 5-4 victory at Boston. Conklin, recalled from the AHL Dec. 6 after an injury to starter Marc-Andre Fleury, went on post victories in each of his first nine starts.
Jan. 1/08 -- The Penguins struck just 21 seconds into the game and C Sidney Crosby scored the game-winning shootout goal in a 2-1 victory over Buffalo in the AMP Energy Winter Classic in front of more than 71,000 at Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Feb. 10/08 -- C Evgeni Malkin tallied his fifth consecutive multiple-point game with a goal and three assists in a 4-3 victory over Philadelphia. Malkin upped his total to 21 points in 10 games without the injured Sidney Crosby in the lineup.
Feb. 26/08 -- Pittsburgh acquired RW Marian Hossa and RW Pascal Dupuis from Atlanta for RW Colby Armstrong, C Erik Christensen, C Angelo Esposito and Pittsburgh's 1st-round draft pick in 2008 at the trading deadline. The club also acquired D Hal Gill from Toronto for a 2nd-round draft pick in 2008 and 5th-round pick in 2009.
March 4/08 -- C Sidney Crosby returned to the lineup in a 2-0 victory at Tampa Bay after missing 21 games with a high ankle injury suffered Jan. 18.
March 25/08 -- The Penguins clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 2-0 victory at New Jersey.
PENGUINS STORY LINES
No Looking Back: The Penguins trailed only 4:28 in their first-round elimination of the Ottawa Senators; the Rangers trailed only 15:10 in their first-round series against New Jersey.
Successful season: The Penguins captured their first division title since the 1997-98 season . . . they earned 100 points in consecutive seasons for the second time in franchise history, following 1992-93 and 1993-94 . . . they posted a +31 goal differential, second in the Eastern Conference and fourth in the NHL . . . they closed the season earning at least a point in 11 consecutive home games (9-0-2), in 16 of the final 17 home contests (13-1-3) and in 22 of the final 24 (19-2-3) . . . they sold out all 41 home games in 2007-08, drawing 700,137 fans for an average crowd of 17,076. It marked the first time the Penguins sold out every home game in an entire season.
(Winter) classic turnaround: The Penguins entered the Jan. 1 Winter Classic at Buffalo with a 20-16-2 record and went 27-11-6 thereafter, posting the second-best points percentage (.682) after Dec. 31. Only the Eastern Conference Washington Capitals (28-12-3, .686) and the Western Conference Anaheim Ducks (28-10-3, .720) and San Jose Sharks (27-11-5, .686) were better in 2008.
Ringing in the New Year: C Evgeni Malkin was the NHL's leading scorer from Jan. 1 forward, tallying 65 points (32 goals, 33 assists) in 44 games. He tallied 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in 28 games while Sidney Crosby was out with an ankle injury.
The Crosby chronicles: C Sidney Crosby was in contention for a second consecutive Art Ross Trophy as NHL scoring leader until he was sidelined with an ankle injury Jan. 18 - he had 63 points (20-43--63) at the time of his injury, which was tied for the NHL lead. His 43 assists also ranked first in the League at that time. The injury sidelined him for 28 of 31 games from Jan. 19 to Mar. 25. Crosby still ranked second on the Penguins in scoring with 72 points (24 goals, 48 assists) in 53 games. His per-game scoring average of 1.36 was second in the League to Washington LW Alex Ovechkin (1.37).