PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Penguins want to avoid overconfidence after evening their Eastern Conference First Round series Saturday against the New York Rangers.
The Penguins earned a 4-3 victory in Game 2 to tie the best-of-7 series at 1-1 before coming back to Pittsburgh for the next two games. Still, the Penguins think they were far from perfect through the first two games and are looking to improve in one specific area starting Monday in Game 3 at Consol Energy Center (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, MSG, ROOT).
“We need to stay out of the penalty box,” forward Chris Kunitz said. “That’s the huge thing that really disrupts our flow of the game. We like our game 5-on-5 and we want to keep the puck away from their speedy wingers and their D making plays. But I think if you can play that model where the next guy over the boards goes and do whatever you can then get off the ice, we should have a recipe for success.
“I think a 1-1 series, it’s a long way to go to win three more games. They’re the best team in the League for a reason. They play hard. They adjust well. They play well on the road. We can’t be thinking we’re ahead in this series at all.”
Pittsburgh has allowed two power-play goals on 12 opportunities through two games.
“In the first game, I thought there were two [penalties] that were definitely preventable,” coach Mike Johnston said. “Last night, I would say, again, there were two or three that are just careless use of the stick … [The referees] have indicated to both teams that if you’re going to use the stick anywhere in the wrist area, the hand area, you’re going to come down on a player’s hands like that, you’re going to be called.
“We have to be a lot better with our sticks.”
Pittsburgh feels it has built momentum through the two games and hopes it can carry that play into the third. Forward Evgeni Malkin said he thought the Penguins played significantly better in New York than they had in recent weeks while battling to make the playoffs.
“We started to play better from the first shift,” Malkin said. “We played better in the D-zone. I thought we played good in the first game. It was 2-1 … I think we played good in both games, but maybe we were a little bit lucky in the second game.”
Malkin, who was sidelined through two stints late in the season with a lower-body injury then an undisclosed injury, said he is playing at 85-90 percent. He has been held scoreless through two Stanley Cup Playoff games.
“I need a little bit more play,” Malkin said. “I feel pretty good, but I can play better, I know that … I think my body is ready to play against good defensemen. The Rangers are a tough team, but I feel I’m ready.”
Johnston said Sidney Crosby appears to be fine after taking a hit midway through the third period on Saturday. No update was provided on defensemen Christian Ehrhoff and Derrick Pouliot; each has been unable to play in the series because of an upper-body injury.