NEW YORK, NEW YORK
– Don’t let the scoreboard fool you. The Penguins’ 5-4 overtime victory over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden was no where near as close to indicative of how well Pittsburgh played.
The Penguins put together one of their most dominant efforts of the season and earned a much deserved two points in the standings after Evgeni Malkin
one-timed a blast behind Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist at 3:42 of the extra session (the goal was awarded to Jordan Staal
, but that may change after the league reviews the play).
Just look at the facts, the Penguins:
> Outshot New York 55-16, with a 23-1 advantage in the third period and overtime
> Outhit New York, 50-41 in a physical encounter
> Spent nearly the entire second half of the game in the offensive zone
“We don’t need to be perfect, but when you play that way, 55 shots on the road, to get 50 hits, you’re playing a physical brand (of hockey),” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “You’re wearing teams down. That’s a pretty good example of how we want to play the game.”
Despite their strong showing, the Penguins had to overcome a two-goal deficit after falling behind 4-2 in the game. Sidney Crosby
set up Mike Rupp’s 12th goal of the season late in the second period to make it a 4-3 score.
From that point on, the Penguins really took over. They outshot New York 16-1 in the third period and were rewarded for their work when Alex Goligoski’s bad angle shot caromed off of Ranger defenseman Marc Staal and across the goal line to tie the game.
“We did a lot of good things,” Crosby said. “It took a while for it to generate into goals and a win. We did some really good things. We deserved that one. We felt that it was only a matter of time in the third that we were going to be back into it.”
Malkin, who finished the game with nine shots one goal, finally broke through for a score in overtime to clinched the victory for Pittsburgh, giving the Penguins their first ever 3-0 season series sweep at Madison Square Garden.
“I try to shoot a lot,” Malkin said. “That’s my game. I try to play hard. Lundqvist played very well. He made a lot of saves. I had a couple shots and he made great saves. The goal was good for me.
“The Rangers are a good team. The defense played very hard. There was a lot of pressure from their forwards. We tried to play in the offensive zone. I think it was a good game for us.”
The Penguins certainly played in the offensive zone, relentlessly attacking the New York net and barraging Lundqvist with shots. The Penguins set a franchise record with 55 shots in a road contest – the old mark was 53 set at Montreal on Dec. 16, 2000. And that’s not counting the 19 shots Pittsburgh had blocked, or the 16 that missed the net. In all, the Penguins fired 90 shots towards the New York cage.
If it wasn’t for Lundqvist setting a new career high with 48 saves, Pittsburgh could have hit double digits in goals.
What’s more impressive though, was that the Penguins defense limited the Rangers to only one shot in the final 23:42 minutes of the game, which occurred at the 4:35 mark of the third period. The Penguins even killed two penalties in the third.
“The guys played exceptional,” said goaltender Brent Johnson
, who had to make only four saves after entering the game in relief of Marc-Andre Fleury
. “(The Rangers) couldn’t muster anything because our guys were shutting everything down. We just played a phenomenal game, a phenomenal effort right from the start.
“All in all, the effort was there. After the second period we said we were going to win the game, and we went out there and did it.”
With the game heavily in favor of Pittsburgh, it seemed only a matter of time before the Penguins would pull out the victory.
“We like to tilt the ice so that it’s 70-30 and wear teams down,” Bylsma said. “Maybe they get a power-play goal. Maybe you find yourself down by two, but we kept playing that way and the feeling in our dressing room was that it was inevitable. If we could get 19 shots in the third then we’d have a pretty good chance to come back in that game.”
With the victory the Penguins improve to 38-22-4 for 80 points, and move into first place in the Atlantic Division. Pittsburgh is one point ahead of idle New Jersey.
“We try to play every game hard,” Malkin said. “We had a great game in a tough place. We’re trying to get into first place before the playoffs. It’s good for the team.”
The Penguins are now 2-0 in their post-Olympic 20-game stretch to end the season. Pittsburgh looked equally impressive in a 3-2 win over a tough Buffalo Sabres team on Tuesday at Mellon Arena. The club is building on that success and hopes that it will carry them into the postseason.
“Last game was one of our best all year and we just one-upped it,” Johnson said. “Nothing is a perfect game but we did everything we needed to do to get two points. We have to give credit to all the guys in the dressing room.
“Excellent back-to-back performances. We have two big games this weekend back-to-back. We just have to keep the ball moving, where we left it off, just keep it going.”PREVIOUS ARTICLE: Aftermath: Penguins 5, Rangers 4 OT