Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the press box of the Penguins' 4-1 win over the New York Rangers.
1. WHAT A RESPONSE
Henrik Lundqvist epitomized the phrase “You mad, bro?” in this game. In the second period, he was ran over by teammate Ryan McDonagh but thought it was Patric Hornqvist – and just lost his mind. The Rangers goalie wanted a call and ended up throwing his net off the moorings in order to get a stoppage of play. Instead, he was given a penalty. But when the Pens not only failed to score on that power play, they also took a penalty of their own and allowed New York to strike first a few minutes later, I thought the Pens missed their chance to take advantage of Lundqvist’s crumbling composure, considering the way New York plays with a lead. Mike Sullivan and Trevor Daley even admitted after the game that the team was frustrated at that point. Well, I was wrong. Instead, the Pens gathered themselves and epitomized the term “response” by scoring three times in a 1:39 span – with the third coming on a power play, an area of the game that had been lacking for the Pens as of late – to take the game over.
Sullivan: "We could sense some of the frustration on the bench and we just talked about making sure we respond the right way. The Rangers are a hard team to play against. They make you work for your offense. They always have numbers back. We just had to make sure we were taking what the game gives us and we didn’t allow our frustration to become a distraction. I thought our guys did a terrific job responding the right way."
2. LEADERS STEP UP
I’m going to expand even more on that sequence, as it was the defining one of the night. What I loved the most about it was that it was the Pens’ leaders who stepped up and took charge. Sidney Crosby tied the score 57 seconds after Chris Kreider’s tally and Evgeni Malkin got Pittsburgh the lead just 11 seconds after that. Pittsburgh had a chance to really take the game over when Keith Yandle went off for interference – and they took advantage of it when Hornqvist deflected a Phil Kessel shot. To have your best players go out there and take charge? That’s exactly what you want to see. And they did it the right way. Until that point, the Pens hadn't necessarily been practicing what they had been preaching in terms of getting pucks and people to the net. Once they started doing that, they were rewarded on the scoresheet. I feel like this could certainly be a moment we can look back on as one of the defining ones of the season. The Pens finally slayed the proverbial beast that was Henrik Lundqvist, chasing him from the net as they came away with an emphatic win tagainst a team who’s had their number the last few years.
Sullivan: "We were going to the net. I think it’s a good formula to score goals regardless of who the goaltender is. It’s a hard area of the rink to defend when the puck lays in and around the blue paint. You get people there, the percentages are in your favor that you’re going to get opportunities. I liked the fact we were putting pucks on them and more importantly, we were going to the areas. Our guys were going to the net, we were playing inside the dots and as a result, we scored some goals. I really liked the way our team responded. I thought our power play got a huge goal for us. I think we can build off that. Our leadership group, starting with our top guys, really responded the right way."
3. UNDER THE RADAR
I don’t want Marc-Andre Fleury’s performance to get lost in the craziness of this game, because he definitely kept his team in it before they broke through for three goals at the end of the 2nd. He was on from the start and had to come up with some really sneaky tough saves in addition to his usual brilliant ones. When the game opened up in the middle frame and the teams began trading chances, he went save-for-save with Lundqvist, Then at the end of the game, as the Rangers pressed to get back in it and had a ton of zone time as a result, he continued his strong play. The Pens netminder has now allowed just two goals in his last three starts, all wins.