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Aftermath: Penguins 3, Rangers 2

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins

As expected with such an emotional pre-game ceremony and the backing of the home fans, the Penguins had the better of the play throughout most of the first period. They outshot the Rangers 9-7, and scored the all-important first goal when Evgeni Malkin tipped home a Sergei Gonchar shot on the Penguins’ only power play of the opening 20 minutes. New York tied things on a late goal by Chris Drury, but it was the Penguins who carried play.

Pittsburgh broke things open beginning at the 12:25 mark of the second period by scoring twice in a span of 1:08 on goals by Sidney Crosby and Tyler Kennedy. Those goals gave both the crowd and the team momentum, and the result was that it took a great glove save by Henrik Lundqvist to prevent the Penguins from really breaking things open and taking a three-goal advantage into the third period.

Both goalies played a huge part in this game, each making several game-saving stops to keep their teams alive in a close contest. The Penguins’ line of Jordan Staal, Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy constantly applied pressure and scoring chances, as the trio combined for eight shots on goal. Staal was robbed by Lundqvist early in the third period from point-blank range.

Coach Dan Bylsma was impressed with the tenacity with which that line played.

“I think, especially early on, they were the first line to get to the offensive zone and have good sustained pressure with puck pursuit by Kennedy and Cooke .... They did a real fine job of getting that aggressive motor working and getting into the offensive zone and setting the tone for three or four shifts in a row in the offensive zone. Their tenacity on the puck, they managed the puck the right way and were really good in the offensive zone.”
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby watched the Penguins raise their Stanley Cup banner, then got the NHL champions off to a familiar start by scoring their first two goals during a 3-2 victory over the rival New York Rangers on Friday night.

Crosby and Tyler Kennedy scored 1:08 apart in the second period to give the Penguins a 3-1 lead and allow them to withstand Marian Gaborik's first goal for the Rangers, the only scoring during the third period. Pittsburgh has won all four games against the Rangers at home the last two seasons.

Malkin, the league's leading scorer last season, and Crosby, No. 3 in scoring, each got their first of the season and Marc-Andre Fleury made 25 saves - including a goal-saving, glove-hand stop on Vinny Prospal late in the first period. The Rangers would have led 2-1 if Prospal had scored and might have seized some of the momentum created by the Penguins' pregame celebration.

The Pittsburgh Penguins raise their Stanley Cup Champions banner in a ceremony before a game against the New York Rangers on October 2, 2009 at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
What Worked Well: Special Teams
Coaches preach about having a plus rating on special teams. The Penguins were plus-one, and the result was a 3-2 victory. Pittsburgh scored once on two power-play attempts, while killing off all four Rangers’ attempts.

What Could Have Gone Better: Breaking Out of the Zone
Play is usually sloppier at the beginning of the season, and the failure to execute a breakout cost the Penguins late in the first period as Chris Drury capitalized on an errant Penguins’ clearing attempt that hit the referee. Pittsburgh was able to get away with a few other in-zone miscues.

Alex Goligoski showed he is ready to take on a more prominent role in 2009-10. He kept the puck in the zone on the power play in the first period and got the secondary assist on the Penguins’ first goal. Later, his hard wrist shot from the right point was deflected home past Rangers’ netminder Henrik Lundqvist by Tyler Kennedy to give the Penguins a two-goal lead at 3-1.

Primarily known for his offensive exploits, Goligoski also logged considerable time on the Penguins’ penalty killing unit, and was a huge reason why the Penguins killed off all four Rangers’ power-play attempts.
Given their first power play of the season at the 13:32 mark of the first period, the Penguins responded by capitalizing on the holding call against the Rangers Chris Drury. The scoring sequence began with Chris Kunitz attempting to feed Sidney Crosby on the goal mouth, but Rangers defenseman Michal Rozsival deflected the pass to the point area. Alex Goligoski kept the puck in and set up Sergei Gonchar for a one-timer that was deflected behind Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist by Evgeni MalkinPittsburgh 1, New York 0.

New York capitalized on an unfortunate bounce when a bad clearing attempt hit the referee to even the score. Sergei Gonchar tried banking the puck off the wall to Jordan Staal, but it bounced onto the stick of the Rangers Christopher Higgins, who fed Chris Drury wide open in front for the deflection past Marc-Andre Fleury. Pittsburgh 1, New York 1.

Pittsburgh re-took the lead as Bill Guerin stayed with the puck after the Penguins failed on a three-on-one attempt, and sent a pass towards Crosby in front of the net. The pass was broken up right to the Penguins Kris Letang. He quickly passed in front to an uncovered Crosby for the goal. Pittsburgh 2, New York 1.

Tyler Kennedy stretched the Penguins’ lead when he deflected an Alex Goligoski wrist shot through a screen in front supplied by Matt Cooke. The play began with Jordan Staal picking off an errant Rangers’ clearing attempt and then setting Goligoski up for the shot that led to the goal. Pittsburgh 3, New York 1.

New York put a dent into the Penguins’ advantage when Marian Gaborik picked up a loose puck in front of the net after it deflected off the skate of the Penguins Jay McKee. Gaborik deposited the puck over the shoulder of Fleury for the score. Pittsburgh 3, New York 2.
Pittsburgh dominated on faceoffs in the first period, finishing the first frame with a 13-5 advantage over the Rangers on the dots. Sidney Crosby was a perfect 7-0 in that period, while Craig Adams won 75 percent of his draws (3-1).

With the game tied at 1-1, Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury allowed the Penguins to retake the lead when he robbed the Rangers Vaclav Prospal with a glove save at the 16:44 mark of the second period. Brandon Dubinsky fed Prospal for the one-timer after a quick Rangers’ regroup, but Fleury showed remarkable quickness going side-to-side from his right to his left to rob Prospal.

While wingers Chris Kunitz and Ruslan Fedotenko were not able to find the score sheet, both were instrumental in helping the Penguins dictate play and control possession in the offensive end. Kunitz led the Penguins with six hits, and his broken-up pass attempt to Crosby ended up resulting in Evgeni Malkin’s opening goal. Fedotenko was credited with five hits and had several quality scoring chances while offering Malkin plenty of room to dance in the offensive zone throughout the night. Overall, the Penguins outhit the Rangers 41-31.

The Penguins blocked 22 shots compared to 18 for the Rangers. During one sequence late in the first period, Pittsburgh blocked four shots in a 30-second sequence as Kris Letang, Mark Eaton (twice) and Malkin all chipped in. Malkin’s block allowed the Penguins to clear the zone. 
> Scoring Summary:
PIT, E. Malkin PP (1), 7:48 1st period: Penguins 1, Rangers 0
NYR, C.Drury (1), 16:01 1st period: Penguins 1, Rangers 1
PIT, S. Crosby (1), 12:25 2nd period: Penguins 2, Rangers 1
PIT, T. Kennedy (1), 13:33 2nd period: Penguins 3, Rangers 1
NYR, M. Gaborik (1), 14:04 3rd period: Penguins 3, Rangers 2

> The Penguins’ 3-2 victory was their first-ever season-opening defeat of the Rangers. Pittsburgh had been 0-3-1 previously in home openers against the Rangers.

> Tyler Kennedy’s goal ended up being the 8th game-winning goal of his NHL career. Eight of Kennedy’s 26 career goals in the regular season have been game-winners, while three of his five postseason goals have won games .

> With his goal in the second period, Sidney Crosby is now just two points shy of reaching 400 for his career.

> Crosby now has 36 career points against the Rangers (13G-23A), his third-highest total against one opponent.

> Alex Goligoski’s two assists gave him his fourth career multi-point game.

> Kennedy and Pascal Dupuis tied for the team lead with four shots on goal apiece.

> The Penguins are now 10-0-2 in their past 12 meetings against the Rangers at Mellon Arena.

> In the final season-opening game at Mellon Arena, the victory gave the Penguins a final record of 22-13-7 in home openers at Mellon Arena.

> Tonight’s game was the Penguins’ first-ever game on October 2 in team history.

> All three of the Penguins’ “big three” offensive stars, Crosby, Malkin and Staal, contributed to the score sheet. Crosby and Malkin scored Pittsburgh’s first two goals while Staal set up Kennedy’s goal.
1.Sidney Crosby
2. Tyler Kennedy
3. Alex Goligoski
 “I think top to bottom everyone worked hard. That’s good to see, especially the first game of the season. Guys were battling and working hard for each other.”

- Penguins’ defenseman Alex Goligoski on the team’s effort in their season-opening defeat of the New York Rangers.


Author: Jason Seidling

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