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Aftermath: Penguins 6, Rangers 2

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
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The Penguins exploded for five goals in the third period to start the post All-Star break with a much-needed 6-2 victory over division rival New York Rangers. The Penguins pulled even in points (52) with Florida for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, though the Panthers have played two less games.

Pittsburgh stuck with its recently implemented strategy for success. The Penguins used their trapping system to suffocate the Rangers’ offense. Pittsburgh was rewarded for its work ethic by converting a few goals. Pittsburgh scored a combination of ugly and pretty goals. They got pucks on the goal and were able to squeeze a few through All-Star netminder Henrik Lundqvist, who looked ordinary in net.
(AP) - Petr Sykora and Kris Letang each had two goals, and Sidney Crosby got back into action with a goal and two assists in the Pittsburgh Penguins' 6-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Wednesday night.

Jordan Staal added a goal and an assist for the Penguins, who weren't sure if Crosby would play until the morning skate. He missed last weekend's All-Star game because of a sore knee. Pittsburgh scored five goals in the third period against All-Star goalie Henrik Lundqvist to break open a 1-1 game.

NHL scoring leader Evgeni Malkin added two assists, and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 32 shots for Pittsburgh, which also beat the Rangers at home on Jan. 18.

Kris Letang takes the body on Marc Staal (photo by Getty)
What Worked: Third-Period Offense
Pittsburgh played a tight game through two periods against New York. The score was tied 1-1 entering the third and it appeared the contest would be a low-scoring affair. That was until the Penguins exploded for five goals in the third period. Everything was clicking for Pittsburgh in the final frame. The Penguins outshot the Rangers, 16-8, and registered some ugly goals and pretty scores.

What Didn't Work: The Second Period
The Rangers dominated the second period, outshooting the Penguins by an 18-8 margin. Pittsburgh took a couple of penalties and were outplayed throughout the duration of the period. Marc-Andre Fleury made several spectacular saves to keep it a 1-1 game and allowed the Penguins to assert their will in the game’s final period. 
Defenseman Kris Letang recorded his first career two-goal game. Letang notched the game-winning score in the third period, added an insurance tally and finished the game with a plus-2 rating. Letang’s first goal was a beautiful wrist shot from the slot that soared over Henrik Lundqvist’s left shoulder. His second score followed a great solo performance. Letang skated the puck through the neutral zone with speed and split two Rangers at the blue line. Letang then sent an off-balance shot behind Lundqvist. He also had five shots, three hits and over 22 minutes of ice time.
The Rangers notched the game’s first goal 2:24 into the first period. Defenseman Ryan Whitney was backing up into his own zone when he lost an edge and fell to the ice. The incident created a two-on-one for New York. Brandon Dubinsky dropped the puck to Nikolai Zherdev and skated to the net with Rob Scuderi the lone Penguin back. Zherdev drifted into the slot and released a wicked wrist shot that eluded Marc-Andre Fleury. New York 1, Pittsburgh 0.

The Penguins got even shortly after giving up the first goal. Chris Minard, called up due to the suspension of Matt Cooke, started the scoring play with a bad-angle shot from along the near goal line. The puck hit Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist and popped into the air. It landed in the crease where Petr Sykora took two hacks at it, burying the puck on his second try for his 18th goal of the year at 6:35 of the first period. Pittsburgh 1, New York 1.

Jordan Staal gave the Penguins the lead 1:11 into the third period with a bank shot. Staal had the puck behind the Rangers net and attempted a centering pass. The puck deflected off the stick of Lundqvist and sneaked past his pads. Pittsburgh 2, New York 1.

The Penguins added to their advantage with a goal from Kris Letang. The Rangers were running around in their own zone when Crosby made a cross-ice pass to Letang at the point. Evgeni Malkin was in front of the net occupying a New York blueliner and Letang was able to skate into the slot. Lundqvist dropped to his knees and Letang wristed the puck over the goalie’s left shoulder. It was Letang’s first goal in 17 games. Pittsburgh 3, New York 1.

The Penguins struck on a five-on-three advantage halfway through the third period with Sykora’s second tally of the game. Pittsburgh made tic-tac-toe passes to net the score. Whitney had the far point and sent a quick pass to Crosby along the goal line. Crosby slapped the puck to Sykora in the slot. The Czech native one-timed a shot behind Lundqvist for a goal. Pittsburgh 4, New York 1.

Marc Staal cut into the Penguins’ lead with his second goal of the season. Scott Gomez got the puck to the trailing defenseman. Staal roofed a wrist shot into the goal from below the near circle. Pittsburgh 4, New York 2.

Letang tallied his first career two-goal game with an amazing individual effort. Malkin hit Letang in full stride. The speedy blueliner flipped the puck in the air and split two Rangers players. Letang retrieved the puck and snapped a shot into the goal. Pittsburgh 5, New York 2.

Crosby got into the action with an incredible spinning backhand shot. Malkin had the puck along the far boards and hit Crosby in the near slot. Crosby took the puck and threw a spinning backhander over the left arm of Lundqvist. Pittsburgh 6, New York 2.
Sidney Crosby gave his injured knee five days of rest over the All-Star break and was able to suit up against the Rangers. Also, Pascal Dupuis and Maxime Talbot both returned to the lineup. Dupuis missed the last seven games while Talbot was absent in the previous three. Matt Cooke did not play, serving the first installment of his two-game suspension for a hit on Carolina’s Scott Walker Jan. 20.

Bad blood has been brewing between Colton Orr and Eric Godard all season. The two have dropped the gloves before but the angst grew over the last couple of games. Orr has gone after Crosby in the past couple of games between the two clubs. Godard tried to fight Orr twice in the last game but the Ranger declined both occasions. Both men sparred just three seconds into tonight’s game and each landed heavy blows. It was a real heavyweight battle. But Godard got the KO when he landed a direct face shot and Orr’s legs buckled as he fell to the ice.
> Pittsburgh improved to 24-21-4 on the year, with a 12-10-2 mark at Mellon Arena.

> Scoring Rundown
NYR, Nikolai Zherdev (13), 2:24 1st period: Rangers 1, Penguins 0.
PIT, Petr Sykora (18), 6:35 1st period: Penguins 1, Rangers 1.
PIT, Jordan Staal (15), 1:11 3rd period: Penguins 2, Rangers 1.
PIT, Kris Letang (2), 6:18 3rd period: Penguins 3, Rangers 1.
PIT, Petr Sykora PP (19), 10:01 3rd period” Penguins 4, Rangers 1.
NYR, Marc Staal (2), 13:55 3rd period: Penguins 4, Rangers 2.
PIT, Kris Letang (3), 16:21 3rd period: Penguins 5, Rangers 2.
PIT, Sidney Crosby (18), 18:20 3rd period: Penguins 6, Rangers 2.

> Evgeni Malkin tallied an assists against the Rangers to extend his NHL lead in points to 71 (19G-52A). Malkin’s 52 assists are a league best.

> Sidney Crosby registered a goal and three assists for a four-point night against New York. He is second in the league in scoring with 64 points (18G-46A) and his 46 assists are second most in the league behind teammate Malkin’s 53.

> The Penguins have the top two scorers in the NHL in Malkin (9+52=71) and Crosby (18+46=64). The last time Pittsburgh had the top two scorers in the league was the 1995-96 season when Mario Lemieux (first) and Jaromir Jagr (second) topped the NHL. The team also had that distinction when Lemieux (first) and Kevin Stevens (second) did it in 1991-92.

> Marc-Andre Fleury made 32 saves to record his 16th win of the season. In his past four games, Fleury is 3-1-0 with a 1.26 goals against average, a .961 save percentage and one shutout.

> Kris Letang recorded his first career two-goal game. It was his first goals in 17 games.

> Petr Sykora recorded his 41st career two-goal game (not including his hat trick earlier this season). He has three goals and an assist for four points in his last four games.

> Jordan Staal tallied a goal and assist for a two-point night against the Rangers. He has four goals and three assists for seven points in his past eight games.

> Ryan Whitney notched two assists in the contest. He has tallied one goal and four assists for five points in his last five games.

> Mellon Arena sold out for the 91st straight game with a standing room only attendance of 16,965.
1. Kris Letang, PIT
2. Sidney Crosby, PIT
3. Petr Sykora, PIT
“Until the end of the season it's going to be tough.
I think maybe we saw the urgency and it was really
important to get those two points tonight.”
- Kris Letang


Author: Sam Kasan

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