The Pens had a tall task as the blistering New York Rangers came to CONSOL Energy Center Friday night.
New York entered the game having won eight of its past nine games and was sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings with 54 points.
With an eight-point gap already between the Rangers and Pens, Pittsburgh had an opportunity to cut into that deficit. But a loss would widen the gap even farther. It was a huge contest for the Pens.
The Rangers played Thursday evening, a 3-2 overtime win over the Florida Panthers, and were on their heels early. The Pens took it to them in the first 18 minutes of the first period, outshooting New York 11-1 with a 1-0 lead on the scoreboard.
The Rangers, however, notched the final six shots in the opening frame and tied the game with less than two minutes to go.
Over the next two periods goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was brilliant, denying the Penguins on every shot with the Rangers building to an eventual 3-1 win. Lundqvist finished with 37 saves in the contest.
“We did a lot of good things, but we just didn’t capitalize enough,” forward Chris Kunitz
said. “But they also capitalized on their chances. We held them to under 20 shots, but we still gave them too many goal-scoring opportunities.”
“We played well tonight, executed well,” defenseman Ben Lovejoy
said. “That’s the type of game we need to play. We didn’t get the result we wanted, but that’s the effort we need.”
The Pens played a very solid game throughout, but the Rangers were able to capitalize on Pittsburgh mistakes.
“There’s always room for improvement no matter what you do or how well you play,” Kunitz said. “You can always do better things and right now we have to do that. We have to execute better. We have to do things out there that keep our lines getting momentum and keep everybody on the ice going the right way.”
“At the end of the game, we had 38 shots to their 20. A lot of that game is the way we want to play and the way we need to play,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “It comes down to a couple plays and a couple mistakes by our team. … We got some quality scoring chances. Lundqvist did make some big saves, but we’ll play that game a lot like that over again and keep playing that way.
A scary moment occurred with under five minutes to play in the game. Jordan Staal
was skating in the offensive zone when he had a knee-on-knee collision with New York’s Mike Rupp. Staal stayed on the ice in obvious pain.
Staal was able to get to his feet and was helped by teammates to the bench and down the runway.
Head coach Dan Bylsma had no update following the game on Staal’s condition.
Pens forward Colin McDonald
, who was named to the American Hockey League All-Star Classic Wednesday, was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. It was only his third career NHL game, and first with the Penguins.
“I think it went well,” he, said of the game. “There are a couple of things I wish I could have done better, but for the first NHL game in two years for me, I think it’s a step in the right direction.
“Hopefully, I can stay here for a couple more games. But that’s really out of my control. I can just play the best that I can every shift I’m out there and we’ll see what happens.”
The Penguins had a lot of good news on the injury front entering the game against New York. Four players that were questionable to play were in the lineup.
Forwards Pascal Dupuis
(lower body), Steve Sullivan
(illness) and Richard Park
(foot) and defensemen Paul Martin
(lower body) and Zbynek Michalek
(undisclosed) all were in the lineup for Pittsburgh in the game.
Author: Sam Kasan