Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the press box of the Penguins’ 4-2 setback over the New York Rangers in Game 2.
1. MENTAL LAPSE
Usually, the second period is Pittsburgh’s strongest. But it definitely wasn’t today. For whatever reason, after taking a 1-0 lead early in the frame the Pens mentally lapsed and let the Rangers begin dictating the play and pressure. New York tilted the ice, producing a few extended offensive-zone shifts and drawing a penalty on Brian Dumoulin at the end of one. And while the Pens were able to kill it off, the momentum had shifted firmly to the Rangers’ side and they scored twice in an 18-second span as a result. Both plays were the result of defensive breakdowns. They couldn’t clear their zone on one, while Olli Maatta misplayed the other. From there, the Rangers took over the game – ending up with a total of four unanswered goals. The back-breaker came off a turnover by Trevor Daley early in the third. The Pens talked a lot heading into the series about not giving the Rangers any freebies. But that’s what they did when it came to the Rangers’ surge.
Coach Sullivan: “We had probably a five or six-minute span in the second period where we lost some of the details of our game, the awareness away from the puck. When our team is at our best, we’ve been defending really well. I think a couple of the goals were uncharacteristic of this group as far as what we gave up in that second period. It wasn’t for a very long period of time. It was a five or six-minute span but then I thought we grabbed ahold of ourselves. But listen, the Rangers, they’re a good team. They can make plays. So we knew this was going to be a hard-fought series. Both of these teams, in my opinion, are really good hockey teams and so we’re going to have to regroup just like we did after Game 1. It’s still early in the series and we’ve just got to go back and try and win the next game.”
2. MALKIN’S RETURN
Evgeni Malkin returned to game action for the first time since March 11 at Columbus, and the fans were thrilled to see him. They chanted “GENO! GENO!” when he took the ice for warmups, the start of the game, his first shift – you name it. After practice on Friday, Sidney Crosby was asked how Malkin looked, and he just laughed, saying, “he always looks good. I think that’s the thing with G, he’s always dancing out there, always moving his feet.” That’s exactly how he was today. Malkin looked fast on his skates and was a difference-maker right away, setting up both Kris Letang and Patric Hornqvist with re-direct chances early in the game. Mike Sullivan used him at both center and on the wing with Crosby for shifts. The only negative was that Malkin tried to do too much at times, forcing passes through traffic and making plays that weren’t there.
3. BRIGHT SPOT
One bright spot for the Pens was their power play, as both goals came on the man-advantage. It certainly helped they had Malkin back, as his presence was immediately felt. When he’s out there, the Pens just go to another level. But Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel were the two biggest reasons for its success today. Mike Sullivan talks a lot about how cerebral Bonino is, and that was clearly evident on the plays he made as he collected a pair of assists on a couple of incredible passes – which were both eventually put in the back of the net by Phil Kessel. Bonino’s set-up ability paired with Kessel’s finishing ability is fun to watch. Kessel’s second goal – which cut New York’s lead to 4-2 – appeared to re-energize the Pens and got them back to playing the way they need to in order to have success.