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Aftermath: Rangers 3, Penguins 2 SO

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
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It was déjà vu all over again at the Garden for the Penguins. In the first meeting between these two clubs at Madison Square Garden in October, the Rangers overcame a 2-0 deficit to tie the game in the third period and then won in a shootout. This time around, it was similar circumstances and a similar outcome. New York scored a goal with a little over five minutes left in the game to tie it at 2-2. The Rangers stole the extra point by winning the shootout when all three of their shootout players put the puck in the net.

The Penguins, who entered the game five points behind New York lost an opportunity to gain two points on the Rangers. Instead, New York increased its lead to six points with the shootout win.

Overall, Pittsburgh didn’t play a poor game. They stuck to their system and remained disciplined in their own zone. Henrik Lundqvist made key saves to keep the game close and New York notched the tying goal off a fluky bounce. The Penguins had numerous chances to win the game, it just wasn’t meant to be.
(AP) Petr Prucha returned from exile to score his first goal of the season late in the third period and the New York Rangers went on to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 in a shootout Wednesday night.

Prucha had been a healthy scratch for the previous 10 games and turned down the Rangers' request over the weekend to go down to the AHL on a conditioning assignment. Confident he was fit enough to play, New York coach Tom Renney put him in the lineup and got rewarded.

Markus Naslund, Nikolai Zherdev and Fredrik Sjostrom had shootout goals for the Rangers, who allowed only defenseman Kris Letang to score in the tiebreaker. Henrik Lundqvist earned his NHL-leading 16th win and has given up only three goals in 19 shootout shots. New York is 7-1 in the tiebreaker.

Just as they did Oct. 25 in a shootout win, the Rangers erased Pittsburgh's 2-0 lead late. Zherdev got New York even then by scoring with 8.1 seconds left in regulation, and started this comeback with a second-period goal.

Eric Godard and Colton Orr exchange pleasantries (photo by Getty)
What Worked: The System
Pittsburgh stuck to its system in the game and remained disciplined in its own end. The first Rangers goal was the result of a great deflection and the second goal occurred following an odd bounce off of the backboards. Other than that, Pittsburgh kept the majority of New York’s chances to the outside and blocked 18 shots, including three straight on a penalty kill. The forwards did a great job on their backcheck and the team limited rebound chances.

What Didn't Work: Shootout
The Penguins and Rangers played an even game. There were ups and downs but both teams were neck-and-neck down the stretch. All that changed in the shootout. New York notched goals on all three of its shootout opportunities. Dany Sabourin, who is normally stellar in shootouts, couldn't come up with that big save. The Penguins did get a goal from Kris Letang but were mathematically eliminated with only two chances. 
The Rangers game was one of defenseman Kris Letang’s best performances of the season. He switched back to his old stick and tried to shoot more in an attempt to end his goal scoring slump. Letang recorded four shots on goal and used that new (old) blade to snap off a wicked wrist shot into the net for the Penguins only shootout score. While it doesn’t count as a goal, getting the puck past a world-class goaltender like Henrik Lundqvist will help boost his confidence. In his own zone, Letang blocked a game-high six shots while dishing out four hits. He also played 26:25 minutes, the most ice time of any player on either team. Letang broke up a cross-crease pass from Scott Gomez to eliminate a great opportunity for the Rangers in the second period.
Mike Zigomanis and Tyler Kennedy left the game with undisclosed injuries. Neither returned and their status will be updated on Thursday. Pascal Dupuis was promoted to the third line.

Eric Godard and Colton Orr exchanged blows at center ice. They stood toe-to-toe and went punch-for-punch. Godard landed some good face shots but took more than his fair share. This fight will go to Orr but I’m sure this won’t be the last time these two tangle.

Things got a little ugly when Orr and Sidney Crosby were trading shots with each other. Brooks Orpik came to Crosby’s defense and gave Orr a shove. Then Orr went down after appearing to trip on Orpik’s stick. Orpik received an unsportsmanlike and tripping penalties to give the Rangers four minutes of penalty time.

With Orpik in the box for four minutes, New York looked on the precipice of taking control of the game. However, everything backfired on them. First, they took a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty, negating two minutes of their man-advantage. Second, in the subsequent four-on-four situation the Rangers surrendered the first goal of the game. Lastly, the team failed to score on the remaining power-play time after their penalty expired.

Speaking of that goal, it was a display of the types of plays Crosby can pull off because of the immense respect opponents have for him. Rangers defenseman Dmitri Kalinin tried to pass the puck out of the New York zone. Crosby blocked the attempt by getting his stick into the passing lane. He then beat Kalinin to the puck, faked a centering pass and skated around the net, drawing both defensemen (Kalinin and Paul Mara). Meanwhile, Mark Eaton sneaked into the slot on the other side. Crosby sent a perfect backhand pass through both Rangers defensemen to Eaton, who one-timed the puck into the net for his first goal in a Penguins uniform.

Speaking of Eaton, it was also his first goal in 90 games - since April 8, 2006, against Chicago as a member of the Nashville Predators. And Wednesday night’s game was the 400th in Eaton’s career.

A couple great defensive plays that I’d like to highlight: Orr and Rob Scuderi were racing for a puck that was traveling into the Penguins zone. Scuderi was able to establish body position and pushed the puck to a teammate with one hand on his stick. Later on that series, Scuderi ran into Evgeni Malkin in the neutral zone and was trapped. Brandon Dubinsky and Aaron Voros had a two-on-one rush with Hal Gill dropping back. As Voros tried to make a crossing pass, Gill dropped to the ice and got his stick on the puck to avert the crisis.

Scuderi backed up his stellar defensive play with a little offensive flash. Matt Cooke – the newly named alternate captain – made a heads up play to get the puck to a wide open Scuderi at the blue line. Scuderi teed up a shot towards the net. Jordan Staal, the Penguins other alternate captain, was positioned in front of the goal. Staal re-directed the puck into the net for his eighth goal of the season.

The Rangers answered with their first goal of the game 1:21 after Pittsburgh took a 2-0 lead. Nikolai Zherdev continued to haunt the Penguins. In the previous game, the Russian sniper tied the game with less than 10 seconds left in regulation. This time, he got New York on the board with his ninth goal of the season. Scott Gomez picked up a loose puck high in the Pittsburgh zone. He skated to the top of the far circle and sent a shot towards the net. Zherdev was cruising through the slot when he deflected the puck behind Penguins goaltender Dany Sabourin.

The Penguins penalty kill units came up big on a late kill in the second period. Pittsburgh blocked three consecutive shots from the high slot/circle. Staal had a great shorthanded opportunity when Malkin set him up for a one-timer.

The Rangers tied the game with a little over five minutes left in the third period off of a wicked carom from the backboards. Gomez nailed a one-timer in the slot that went wide of the net. The puck hit the backboards and bounced back to the side of the net. Petr Prucha beat Sabourin to the poke check and banged it home for his first goal of the season.

Sabourin made a big save on a Marcus Naslund shot from the high slot. Naslund sent a turning, fading shot onto the net. Even though Naslund didn’t get a lot of power on the shot, Sabourin consumed it in his chest.

Malkin created the best scoring chance of overtime when he got around a Rangers defenseman on the near-half boards. He then charged to the net and the puck was loose as a scrum ensued in the crease. Pittsburgh couldn’t get in position to get the puck in the goal.

The Rangers Marc Staal made a great defensive play on Malkin to keep him from getting off a shot on an open net. Hal Gill sent a shot on net from the point that missed the goal to the left and bounced out to the right. Malkin tried to get a backhander on net but Staal tied up his stick.

In the shootout, Naslund faked a shot and then went to the backhand, roofing the puck over Sabourin. Miroslav Satan was stopped on his backhand attempt by Henrik Lundqvist. Zherdev used the same strategy with a fake and backhand goal. Kris Letang blew a wrist shot past Lundqvist to keep the Penguins alive. However, Fredrik Sjostrom, who notched the winning shootout goal in the first meeting between the two clubs, did it again. He sent a shot blocker side beyond Sabourin to give the Rangers the victory and extra point.
> Pittsburgh dropped to 14-6-4 on the season, with a 7-3-2 mark on the road. The Penguins have not won in their last seven games in Madison Square Garden.

> Mark Eaton gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead when he scored his first goal as a Penguin at 13:56 of the first period. The Penguins took a 2-0 lead on Jordan Staal’s eighth score of the year in the second period. The Rangers got on the board at 10:56 of the second period on Nikolai Zherdev’s deflection. The Rangers tied the game, 2-2, with Petr Prucha’s first goal of the year at 14:03 of the third period. Marcus Naslund, Zherdev and Fredrik Sjostrom all scored in the shootout for New York. Kris Letang scored the only Penguin shootout goal.

> Pittsburgh outshot the Rangers by a 31-27 margin. Pittsburgh has only been outshot twice in its past 13 games.

> Malkin did not record a point but still leads the NHL with 39 points (10G-29A). Malkin’s 29 assists are also a league best.

> Crosby notched an assist against New York. Crosby quietly climbed the rankings and is now second in the league in scoring with 35 points (13G-22A). His 22 assists are the third most in the league. Crosby has six goals and four assist for nine points in his past four games.

> The Penguins have the top two scorers in the NHL in Malkin (10+29=39) and Crosby (13+22=35). 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 held that distinction when Lemieux (first) and Kevin Stevens (second) did it in 1991-92.

> Dany Sabourin made 25 saves in the Rangers game. He’s 4-1-2 in his past eight starts (with one no decision).

> Mark Eaton played in his 400th career game. He also scored his first goal as a Penguin, snapping a 90-game drought. His last goal was April 8, 2006, against Chicago as a member of the Nashville Predators.

Forwards Mike Zigomanis and Tyler Kennedy left the game with undisclosed injuries. Neither returned and their current status is unknown.
1. Nikolai Zherdev, NYR
2. Henrik Lundqvist, NYR
3. Petr Prucha, NYR
"It's a frustrating loss. They were able to capitalize on
the rest of their chances and we couldn't."
- Mark Eaton told the Associated Press


Author: Sam Kasan

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