Everything you need to know from the Penguins' 4-3 setback to the Rangers: LETANG, MICHALEK OUT
The Penguins were dealt a blow when they discovered late in the afternoon that they would be without two of their top four defensemen for Tuesday’s game.
Both Kris Letang
and Zbynek Michalek
traveled with the team to New York and participated in the morning skate, but both missed Tuesday’s contest as they are scheduled to return to Pittsburgh for further evaluation.
“Letang got the hit and had the facial injury in Montreal. Really precautionary at this point and he is going back to Pittsburgh for further evaluation,” head coach Dan Bylsma said following the game. “Michalek, again, the same thing. He’s going back to get evaluated (Wednesday) and we should have more of an update on him.”
Letang suffered a broken nose on Saturday when he absorbed a high hit from Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty. Letang hit the ice Monday after a doctor appointment for his facial injuries to get some work in and see how he reacted.
He then partook in the Penguins’ game-day skate, but said afterward he was still having some trouble breathing and would need to meet with the doctors again.
Michalek, meanwhile, left during the Montreal game during the third period but has participated in the last two days of practice. There is no word yet on the nature of his injury. Prior to Tuesday, he had played in the Pens' last four games after missing 10 straight with a broken finger.
The Penguins dipped into their impressive organizational depth at the defense position to fill the void left by Letang and Michalek, recalling Alexandre Picard and Robert Bortuzzo
from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the game.
Both men filled in admirably, each logging over 10 minutes of ice time while making up the third defensive pairing.
Bortuzzo made an especially commendable play on Evgeni Malkin
’s goal that cut Pittsburgh’s deficit to 4-2 when he sacrificed his body to make a perfect breakout pass to Steve Sullivan
, as he absorbed a crushing late hit after releasing the puck.
And not only did the call-ups perform well, but the rest of the Penguins’ blueliners stepped up in the absences of Letang and Michalek – especially Deryk Engelland
and Paul Martin
, who skated as a pairing.
Simply put, special teams turned out to be a huge factor in Tuesday’s game.
The Penguins earned four power plays in the first period, with James Neal
capitalizing on the third man-advantage opportunity – a roughing call to Lundqvist – when he tapped a Crosby feed into a wide-open net to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead that they would carry into the middle frame.
However, the Rangers would be awarded a pair of power plays in the second after getting none in the first – and they capitalized on both, with Ryan Callahan and Marian Gaborik netting the tallies.
“A misread on a rush, we get beat and they get a couple quick goals on us," Bylsma said. “We had to fight back at that point.”
The Blueshirts then got another four power play opportunites late in the third after the Penguins had clawed back within one – including two 5-on-3 advantages, one lasting 1:22 and the other 31 seconds – with the Penguins down by one goal.
"In the third we did a good job of battling, we just ran into some penalty trouble and it was hard to get some rhythm there in the third," captain Sidney Crosby
Added Bylsma, "Penalty problems on the road has been an issue and that’s turned into goals against."
But Pittsburgh’s penalty killing unit went to work, led by the Herculean efforts of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury
and forwards Craig Adams
and Matt Cooke
– allowing the Rangers just two shots on those lengthy two-man advantages.
ANOTHER DISALLOWED GOAL
One unfortunate situation that seems to be popping up a lot for Pittsburgh recently has been disallowed goal calls.
They had two in their last game in Montreal on Saturday, and got another tonight while trailing 4-1 with 2:25 left in the second period.
On the play, Cooke had hi-sticked a puck that hit Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist as he tried to glove it before bouncing off defenseman Michael Sauer and into the back of the net.
Although the referee initially ruled it “no goal” on the ice, the play went under review as the puck had clearly touched two Rangers players after hitting Cooke’s stick – which normally cancels out the impending whistle and allows the game to proceed. If a Penguins player had gotten the puck immediately after Cooke, that would have been a different story.
However, the NHL war room in Toronto upheld the ruling, citing this as their explanation: “According to rule 80.3, ‘when an attacking player causes the puck to enter the opponent's goal by contacting the puck above the height of the crossbar, either directly or deflected off any player or official, the goal shall not be disallowed. The determining factor is where the puck makes contact with the stick.’”
SID, GENO STILL ROLLING
The two-headed monster that is Sidney Crosby
and Evgeni Malkin
struck again Tuesday.
Crosby recorded primary assists on two of the Penguins' three goals, giving him 11 points (2G-7A) in his last five games. Tonight marked Pittsburgh's first regulation loss with their captain back in the lineup.
Malkin netted a crucial tally with just six seconds left in the middle frame that helped stem the Rangers' momentum built from scoring four straight goals in that period. Malkin extended his point streak to five games and has a total of nine points (4G-5A) over that span.
Author: Michelle Crechiolo