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Aftermath: Penguins 4, Rangers 3

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
  
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QUICK ANALYSIS
 
The Penguins earned a critical 4-3 victory over rival New York Rangers. The game had important ramifications in the Eastern Conference standings as both teams are fighting for a postseason berth. Pittsburgh strengthened its position by improving its own ranking while pushing down the Rangers in the proverbial “four-point” game.

The Penguins had contributions through the lineup as each line tallied a goal. It was a special teams heavy game and neither team was able to get into a rhythm at even strength and implement their system. But the Penguins were still able to make the clutch plays when necessary and pulled out the win.

The victory puts the Penguins on strong footing for the postseason. They’re “magic number” to lock up a spot is now seven points. Any combination of Penguins’ points earned or Florida Panthers points lost that equals seven will clinch a spot for Pittsburgh.

The Penguins also (maybe temporarily) jumped back into the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference standings. They are tied with No. 4 Philadelphia in points (90) but the Flyers have three games-in-hand on Pittsburgh.

Locking up home ice in the first round is not out of reach for Pittsburgh – and neither is dropping out of the playoffs. All that’s left to do for the Penguins is to win as many games as possible and see where they end up when the dust settles.
 
WHAT HAPPENED
 
(AP) - Sidney Crosby scored the go-ahead goal with 10:04 remaining to help the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-3 victory over the New York Rangers on Saturday, their fifth win in six games.

Fedotenko had a goal and two assists for the Penguins, who closed out a 10-1-2 March by improving to 5-1-1 on their franchise-record eight-game homestand. Pittsburgh climbed three points ahead of the seventh-place Rangers in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
 
PLAYOFF CHASE
 
 
Pos. Team GP Record Pts
4. Philadelphia 73 40-23-10 90
5. Pittsburgh 76 41-27-8 90
6. Carolina 76 41-28-7 89
7. NY Rangers 76 39-28-9 87
8. Montreal 74 38-27-9 85
9. Florida 75 36-28-11 83
10. Buffalo 74 36-30-8 80

                     
Team Notables:
Buffalo: Plays at Montreal, Saturday at 7 p.m.
Carolina: Plays at New Jersey, Saturday at 7 p.m.
Florida: Plays at Dallas, Saturday at 8 p.m.
Montreal: Hosts Buffalo, Saturday at 7 p.m.
NY Rangers: Lost to Pittsburgh, 4-3
Philadelphia: Plays at NY Islanders at 7 p.m.
 
SHOT OF THE NIGHT

Jordan and Marc Staal battle for a loose puck (photo by Getty)
ESSENTIALS
 
What Worked Well: Scoring Depth
Great teams don’t rely solely on a few players, even when that team boasts the best players in the world. Good teams have good scoring depth and the Penguins depth came through in the critical win over the Rangers. Yes, Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal but that wouldn’t have been possible without tallies from Matt Cooke, Maxime Talbot and Ruslan Fedotenko. In fact, the Penguins had contributions throughout the lineup as each line tallied a goal: Crosby (first), Cooke (second), Fedotenko (third), Talbot (fourth).

What Could Have Gone Better: Final Minutes of the First Period
The Penguins built an early 2-0 lead and were in control of the game…until the final two minutes of the first period. New York battled back to score two late goals to tie the game. The first goal came at the 18:28 mark while the tying goal occurred 4.4 seconds from the end of the period. The Penguins didn’t panic and eventually retook the lead and won the game. 
 
DIFFERENCE MAKER
 
Ruslan Fedotenko broke out for a three-point game to lead the Penguins to a victory. The Ukraine native scored a goal, added two assists and recorded a plus-3 rating against the Rangers. Fedotenko scored on a surgical shot after getting Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist to bite on a pass. Later, Fedotenko made a beautiful pass that sprang Sidney Crosby for the game-winning goal. 
 
SCORING SYNOPSIS
 
The Penguins got on the board halfway through the first period on Max Talbot’s 11th goal of the season. Ruslan Fedotenko made a nice pass, chipping the puck ahead to Talbot. Talbot caught the puck in stride and blew past Rangers defenseman Paul Mara. He wristed a shot through Henrik Lundqvist’s five-hole. Pittsburgh 1, New York 0.

The Penguins upped their lead on a score from forward Matt Cooke. Evgeni Malkin carried the puck into the New York zone and pulled up above the near circle. He sent a cross-ice pass to Talbot, who one-timed a shot on the opposite side of the crease. Lundqvist kicked out the rebound. Cooke sent the puck toward the net on the backhand that hit Lundqvist’s pad. The Penguin forward swiped at the rebound as he was falling down. The puck hit Lundqvist and bounced over him and across the goal line. Pittsburgh 2, New York 0.

The Rangers cut into the lead in the final minutes of the first period. Scott Gomez won a faceoff in the Pittsburgh zone and the Rangers worked the puck to Ryan Callahan at the near hash mark. Callahan snapped a shot far side and past the glove of Marc-Andre Fleury. Pittsburgh 2, New York 1.

The Rangers tied the game with 4.4 seconds left in the opening period. Brandon Dubinsky collected the puck below the goal line on the near side. He skated around the back of the net and threw a wraparound shot off of Fleury’s left skate and into the net. Pittsburgh 2, New York 2.

Pittsburgh retook the lead early in the second period. The play began in the Penguins zone. Fleury made a save on Gomez and the Rangers forward threw the rebound toward an open net. Defenseman Rob Scuderi steered the puck out of danger and ahead to Tyler Kennedy for a three-on-one opportunity. Kennedy pushed the puck ahead to Fedotenko, who skated into the Rangers zone with Jordan Staal and Kennedy trailing. Fedotenko had his head turned toward Staal, looking for a pass, but then snapped a shot far side beyond the elbow of Lundqvist. Pittsburgh 3, New York 2.

New York pulled even with four-plus minutes remaining in the second frame. Chris Drury took a shot on net with Nik Antropov standing atop the crease. Fleury made the save, but Antropov grabbed the rebound and sent a spinning, sweeping shot into the goal. Pittsburgh 3, New York 3.

Sidney Crosby gave Pittsburgh the lead midway through the third period. Fedotenko hit Crosby up ice and the team’s captain split between defenders Derek Morris and Wade Redden before releasing a shot far side on Lundqvist. Pittsburgh 4, New York 3.
 
INTRIGUING NOTABLES
 
It’s always an intense battle in the Penguins-Rangers rivalry. Both teams’ combined for 61 penalty minutes, (New York, 41; Pittsburgh, 20) and tempers boiled over with a couple of skirmishes. Tyler Kennedy dropped the gloves with irritant Sean Avery early in the first period. Neither man landed a heavy blow but the bout did bring the Mellon Arena crowd to their feet. Then, Eric Godard and Colton Orr fought for the fourth time this season. Godard landed several consecutive jabs and won the battle. Final season tally: Godard 3, Orr 1.

Pittsburgh is still struggling to put the puck in the vacant cage. For the second straight game, the Penguins failed to score on several empty-net shots, including a Sidney Crosby shot that hit the post. Luckily, the Penguins can laugh it off as they won both games.
 
GAME NOTES
 
> Pittsburgh improved its record to 41-27-8 on the year with a 23-12-3 mark at Mellon Arena. The Penguins are 12-1-2 in their last 15 games and 5-1-1 on their franchise-long eight-game homestand.

> Pittsburgh is 14-2-3 since Dan Bylsma was named interim head coach.

> Scoring Summary:
PIT, M.Talbot (11), 8:57 1st period: Penguins 1, Rangers 0
PIT, M.Cooke (10), 11:20 1st period: Penguins 2, Rangers 0
NYR, R.Callahan (20), 18:28 1st period: Penguins 2, Rangers 1
NYR, B.Dubinsky (10), 19:55 1st period: Penguins 2, Rangers 2
PIT, R.Fedotenko (14), 4:14 2nd period: Penguins 3, Rangers 2
NYR, N.Antropov (27), 15:16 2nd period: Penguins 3, Rangers 3
PIT, S.Crosby (29), 9:56 3rd period: Penguins 4, Rangers 3

> Evgeni Malkin tallied an assist against New York to increase his NHL lead in points to 107 (33G-74A). Malkin’s 107 points sets a new career high (106) and his 74 assists are a league-best and a new career high.

> Malkin has tallied 30-plus goals (33) in three straight seasons and has broken the 100-point barrier (107) for the second consecutive season.

> Sidney Crosby tallied the game-winning goal against the Rangers. He is third in the league in scoring with 97 points (29G-68A) and his 68 assists are second most in the league behind teammate Malkin’s 74.

> Crosby has a point in his last 15 games, tallying 25 points (8G-17A) over that span. He’s on a 10-game scoring streak since returning from an injury.

> Marc-Andre Fleury made 26 saves in the game to record his 32nd win of the season, sixth most in the NHL. He is 11-1-2 in his last 14 games.

> In the month of March, Fleury has a 9-1-2 record with a 1.87 goals against average and .930 save percentage.

> Max Talbot notched a goal and an assist for his second two-point game of the year (1G-1A at Detroit, Nov. 11).

> Ruslan Fedotenko tallied a goal and two assists for a three-point game. His last three-point game was Feb. 21 at Philadelphia (2G-1A).

> Matt Cooke scored his first goal in 10 games.

> Mellon Arena sold out for the 105th straight game with a standing room only attendance of 17,110. Pittsburgh is 67-29-9 in during that span.
 
THREE STARS QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
   
1. R.Fedotenko, PIT
2. S.Crosby, PIT
3. R.Callahan, NYR
"We didn’t get to our game for 60 minutes, but it was a battle game. 
We stuck with it, we stayed with the game plan, and different
guys contributed in a lot of different areas to make the big
two points against this divisional team."
- Penguins Interim head coach Dan Bylsma
 

 

Author: Sam Kasan

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