Skip to Main Content

Five keys for Rangers vs. Penguins, Game 2

Starting goalies uncertain; Malkin may play for Pittsburgh

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

PITTSBURGH -- The New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins play Game 2 of their Eastern Conference First Round Series at Consol Energy Center on Saturday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports). The Penguins lead the best-of-7 series 1-0.

Here are five keys for Game 2:

1. Your starting goalies are …: Game 2 could feature the goalie matchup we all thought we were going to get or the matchup we saw in the second and third periods of Game 1.

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (right eye) and Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion) each practiced Friday, but there was no update if either would play Saturday. They're considered game-time decisions. If they can't play, Antti Raanta (Rangers) and Jeff Zatkoff (Penguins) likely will be in again.

It certainly looked like Lundqvist was preparing to play Game 2 by the way he practiced Friday, but it also looked like Fleury was preparing to play Game 1 by the way he took the morning skate Wednesday. Zatkoff played instead and made 35 saves in the 5-2 win.

The Penguins know they can win a playoff game without Fleury. The Rangers haven't had a starting goalie other than Lundqvist in a playoff game since April 24, 2006. Lundqvist has started 111 consecutive playoff games.

Video: NYR@PIT, Gm1: Zatkoff robs Zuccarello, preserves lead

2. Find a spot for Malkin if he's in: If Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (upper-body injury, game-time decision) plays, who does he play with? It's a fair question, because coach Mike Sullivan is in no rush to break up his top two lines of Sidney Crosby with Patric Hornqvist and Chris Kunitz, and Nick Bonino centering Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin.

Malkin would normally play in Bonino's spot with Kessel and Hagelin, but that line has been good and fast, that there's no reason to mess with it. That's probably why Malkin was on a line in practice Friday with Connor Sheary and Bryan Rust, who is also injured and day-to-day.

If he plays, Malkin might start with Sheary and either Rust or Eric Fehr, depending on Rust's availability and if the Penguins want to play 11 forwards and seven defensemen like they did in Game 1.

Sullivan left open the possibility that Malkin could play with Crosby. They probably will play together along with Kessel, Hornqvist, and defenseman Kris Letang on the power play.

3. Rangers have to slow down Crosby's line: Although it's easy to look at how the Rangers were unable to take advantage of Zatkoff early in Game 1, center Derek Stepan said the worst part about the loss was how the Penguins top line dominated on the score sheet.

Hornqvist had a hat trick and an assist. Crosby had a goal and two assists. Kunitz didn't get a point, but he was plus-1 with three shots on goal, six total shot attempts and was credited with seven hits and two blocked shots.

"We're not going to stop 87," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "You can't totally stop him or Malkin. They've got too much skill and ability. I do think we've got to be sure we've got numbers back. It seems to me, Pittsburgh is thriving on when you make bad puck decisions. They just feed off that. That's where their quickness seems to be for them. We're going to need to make sure we have numbers and we protect that puck real well."

Video: NYR@PIT, Gm1: Stepan lights the lamp twice in loss

4. Put 'em where they ain't: Part of handling the puck is placing it in areas that you can either get it back or won't be hurt if you don't. The Rangers didn't do a good enough job at that after a dominant start in Game 1.

Pittsburgh had 22 blocked shots and the Rangers missed on 19 shot attempts when they tried at times to shoot around the blockers. Worse, the Rangers were burned by one of Pittsburgh's blocked shots. Hornqvist's block on Dan Girardi's shot-pass attempt from the right point led to Crosby's breakaway goal that put the Penguins up 2-0 late in the second period.

The Rangers have to be smarter where they put the puck in the offensive zone. The extra pass along the blue line or moving the puck down the wall can be a better play than trying to throw it at the net because the Penguins block shots well and their transition game is excellent.

"We talked about it prior to the series; sometimes it takes a little while to sink in," Vigneault said. "I'm pretty sure after that game we all understand."

5. More from Sullivan's boys: Sheary and forward Tom Kuhnhackl, who played for Sullivan in the American Hockey League this season, were significant contributors to the Penguins' turnaround this season, and to their success in Game 1.

Kuhnhackl scored the game-winning shorthanded goal and finished with a mostly effective 15:37 in ice time over 26 shifts. Sheary, who played 13 shifts totaling 10:42, had an assist on the Penguins' first goal and a key block on Keith Yandle's wide-open look from between the circles in the second period when it was 1-0.

The difference in the Penguins this season is depth forwards like Kuhnhackl and Sheary can damage the opposition's game plan too. The Rangers found out the hard way. They need to be ready for it.

Video: NYR@PIT, Gm1: Hornqvist notches the empty-net goal

View More