Assistant coach Gary Agnew gives his three impressions from the bench of the Penguins' 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers in Game 1.
1. The first period, you can’t take four minor penalties. It just kills your momentum if you had any, but obviously giving up the early goals, especially the early goal, they fed off their crowd and got rolling pretty good with the momentum and that caused us to take those penalties. We’ve got to be more disciplined.
2. When push came to shove, Fleury played great. He made some big saves. There’s lots of screens out there. They had some good traffic on him and I thought he made some really good saves.
3. Then I was really impressed with the fourth line. I thought they did a great job. They created chances, they got pucks deep, they ground it out and consequently had four or five good chances.
Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the media level.
The Pens didn't get off to a strong start, and the biggest reason for that was their lack of discipline. They went down 1-0 just 28 seconds in, so it was an uphill battle almost from the drop of the puck – which means they wanted their best players on the ice as much as possible. Instead, those guys were stuck on the bench for the majority of the first period because the Pens took FOUR penalties after surrendering that opening goal, keeping them from generating any momentum and getting into a flow. What’s especially frustrating is that they were all avoidable - especially the last one, an unnecessary slashing call on David Perron, taken just 1:27 after the Rangers converted their third power-play chance and took a 2-0 lead that they wouldn’t surrender. That turned out to be the difference in the game. The Pens have to be smarter moving forward in this series.
2. Lack of Zone Time
While Henrik Lundqvist is a world-class goaltender, coming into the series he had played just six games after a two-month layoff due to injury. He looked rusty at times during the last two weeks of the regular season and he didn't look all that strong tonight. His rebound control was off and he struggled to track the puck through traffic. Getting guys in his crease is the key to beating him, and that’s exactly where Maxim Lapierre was on the Pens’ only goal. The problem was that the Pens didn’t have enough offensive zone time to get there as much as they needed to, especially early. They spent too much time in their own end. The Pens couldn’t establish a forecheck or get a cycle going because they couldn’t get through the neutral zone, and when they resorted to dumping it in and trying to get behind the D, the Rangers would beat them to the puck and go right back the other way. While the Pens had more possession time as the game went on and pressed hard in the third, it still wasn’t enough.
3. Fleury Solid
Marc-Andre Fleury was really solid in this game and was key to keeping his team in it, especially with the Pens' terrible start. In addition to all of the penalties, the Pens looked overwhelmed. They struggled with the Rangers’ speed and transition game and were pinned in their end for long stretches, where they looked lost and chaotic. But Fleury was a port in the storm and kept the score from being much worse. While the Pens got progressively better and stronger as the game went on, the Rangers still had their quality scoring chances and odd-man rushes – and Fleury was able to stop all of them. He had quite the workload, as he faced 38 total shots in this game.