NEW YORK -- The Pittsburgh Penguins know if they're going to have any chance of defeating the Presidents' Trophy-winning New York Rangers in their Eastern Conference First Round series, they're going to have to refrain from taking unnecessary penalties.
The Penguins looked eager to hand Game 1 of this best-of-7 series to the Rangers on a silver platter in the first period, when they took four minor penalties and played shorthanded for 6:43. As a result, an already injury-depleted defense corps was forced to constantly contain one of the NHL's fastest units, captain Sidney Crosby saw 3:42 of ice time, and the Penguins fell behind 2-0 at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.
"I can't remember a single [penalty] off the top of my head, but they're able to generate a lot of momentum out of those," Pittsburgh defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. "We have half our team sitting on the bench for far too long and can't get into a rhythm, and the other half is out there killing, playing very difficult minutes. It tires you out, and that gets a team out of their rhythm; we can't do that."
The Penguins did battle back with strong second and third periods, but it wasn't enough to overcome the barrage and tough minutes they had to bear in the first. The Rangers outshot the Penguins 38-25 in a 2-1 victory.
Game 2 is Saturday at the Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).
Because of injuries to defensemen Kris Letang (concussion), Christian Ehrhoff (concussion) and Derrick Pouliot (upper body), the Penguins had Taylor Chorney and rookie Brian Dumoulin each making his Stanley Cup Playoff debut in the series opener.
It was a lot of ask of Chorney, who has played 68 regular-season games over six NHL seasons, and Dumoulin, who played in his 15th NHL game, but each played well.
"They did a good job in an incredibly difficult situation; to come in having not played a ton of NHL hockey," Lovejoy said.
Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi left the game for a little more than six minutes when he required seven stitches to close a gash on the bridge of his nose after being clipped by the stick of Rangers center Kevin Hayes on a follow-through of a shot early in the third period.
Scuderi felt the early penalties played a huge part in Pittsburgh's demise.
"I think you kind of have to look at it that way," he said. "It's the postseason. Maybe during the [regular] season you could kind of look those over because you have another game in a couple of days. But in the postseason every little play matters, and we gave up a lot of momentum in the first period."
The Rangers went 1-for-5 with the man-advantage; captain Ryan McDonagh scored in the first period. If not for the play of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who made 36 saves, the deficit might have been worse.
Pittsburgh coach Mike Johnston pointed to a few areas that hurt the Penguins in the first.
"The momentum [off the first goal 28 seconds into the game], the crowd, the surge and those penalties," Johnston said. "[The Rangers] earned it. It took a lot of momentum away from our team, and our key players couldn't get on the ice, so certainly that was a key factor in the start of the game for sure."
Pittsburgh was the most penalized team in the NHL during the regular season, totaling 1,123 penalty minutes. Its 13.7 minutes per game included 349 minors, the second-highest total in the League, and an NHL-leading 18 misconducts.
The Penguins, who had the third-best penalty kill (84.8 percent) during the regular season, limited the Rangers to seven shots on their five power-play opportunities.
"Yes, we did a good job on the penalty kill, but we weren't able to get going, and our players are playing against the other's top line for a long time," Lovejoy said. "So half our team is tired, and the other half is out of sort. We can't be taking those penalties. We have to be better disciplined and come out ready to play."
Crosby played 19:11 on 22 shifts, took one shot on goal, attempted two others and was minus-1.
"We just have to learn from this; I think they did exactly what we expected, but with that there's always little things that you can adjust," Crosby said. "You become much more aware after Game 1, so our start and being tentative has to be better. We were definitely guilty of doing both."