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Pens-Rangers In-Game Blog

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins


0:00: The horn sounds and the Pens top the Rangers 5-2 for their 10th straight win! They've cut New York's lead in the standings down to 4 points!

     "Is there seriously still any question of whose the Best team in hockey?! @pghpenguins #NHL"


2:53: Bylsma said the other day that we would see Staal and Crosby on a line together in the future, and he's paired them together twice so far tonight.

6:27: Fleury has been inconsistently tested tonight, but it's a testament to him that he's been able to come up with the big saves whenever they are needed. John Mitchell just had 3-4 cracks at the doorstep but the Flower stayed strong and made the saves. He then pulled out a series of stack-the-pad stops right after. Unbelievable.

9:25: Letang is a plus-5 and Crosby and Martin are both plus-3. Welcome back, guys.

12:25: Crosby wins a faceoff in the offensive zone and after the puck seems to touch the stick of every Penguins player in the zone, Letang rips a shot at the cage that Dupuis slams home from the side of the net. That's No. 19 for Duper! PENS 5, RANGERS 2

13:35: Jordan Staal is back on the ice with a nasty-looking gash above his right eye from the high stick he took at the end of last period.

     "Boom goes the dynamite! Crosby makes the assist! #Pens"


     "And there's the point for Sid in his first game back! #pens #rangers"

16:59: Just seconds after Bickell is released, Crosby wraps around the net (one-arming around Marc Staal), dishes a backhand feed to Kunitz - who slams it into the cage! Crosby with a point in his first game back! PENS 4, RANGERS 2

18:20: Pens are back on the power play for the next 1:25 as Kunitz is released.

18:38: A puck bounces over Niskanen's stick on the blue line and Gaborik seems to be off to the races, but Niskanen dives and knocks the puck away with a sliding block!

20:00: Puck drops to start the third. The teams will skate 4-on-4 for the next 1:39 as Kunitz is in the box for slashing and Bickell is serving a four-minute penalty for high sticking Staal.

(Getty Images)

The Pens came out strong and scored a pair of goals just 50 seconds apart within the first 2:31 of play. They rode that momentum for much of the first half and had the Rangers on their heels before New York began pressing hard right back. A big goal from Gaborik cut the Penguins' lead to one and got the Blueshirts right back in the game.

- Staal's assist on Cooke's goal gives him points in a team-high nine straight games (3G-9A).
- This is Cooke's third two-goal game of the season (Oct. 6 at VAN, Feb. 18 at PHI)
- Crosby has taken 12 shifts for a total of 11:23 minutes. He is 9-8 (53 percent) on faceoffs
- Letang leads the Pens with 15:58 minutes played

(Getty Images)

0:00: First 40 minutes are in the books. Pens have a 3-2 lead and a 23-18 edge in shots.

0:22: 43 seconds into the PP, Kunitz gets called for slashing. We'll go 4-on-4.

1:05: Bickell catches Staal in the face with a high stick and draws blood. That means the Pens will get a four-minute power play.

     "@PensInsideScoop Rangers bringing it Pens need to play their game. Good choice by Bylsma to settle things"


2:07: Crosby's line has to ice the puck after an extended shift in their end, and Bylsma smartly uses his timeout to give them a quick rest.

5:28: Gaborik won't be denied this time. He finds a lot of open space in the slot and takes his time to snap one home past Fleury for his 35th goal of the season. PENS 3, RANGERS 2

6:23: Crosby is back with Cooke and Kennedy for his third shift of the period.

7:50: Prust gets his second quality scoring chance of the evening when his shot rings off the red painted metal. Fleury thanks his crossbar after play leaves the zone. Gotta give credit where it's due.

     "Looks like Fleury's got some dirt on his shoulder, can someone brush that off for him? @PensInsideScoop #jayz"


9:18: Breathtaking save by Fleury on Gaborik! The speedy sniper gets a pass in the slot and tees off a shot so quickly you barely see it, but Fleury's glove snaps up just as fast and snags it out of the air.

11:47: And now Sid is on the ice to take an offensive zone faceoff with Staal and Sullivan on his wings.

15:12: Crosby is now centering a line with Dupuis and Sullivan.

     "I would love to see Cooke get his first hat trick tonight. #Pens"

     "Matt Cooke is playing some beautiful hockey tonight. What a great season for him. #Pens #NHL"

17:29: Bylsma reunites the Cooke-Staal-Kennedy line and it pays off!!! Staal enters the zone and pushes the puck ahead as he's checked into the boards for TK to scoop up. Kennedy sends a pass across the slot for Cooke to punch home alley-oop style! Second goal of the evening for Cookie! PENS 3, RANGERS 1

     "Malkin is ON FIRE! Takin hits from a  6foot 7,  275 pound guy and STILL gets a great goal #Pittsburgh #penguins #lovemytown"

18:41: What a terrific effort by Malkin's line! Neal strips McDonagh of the puck on the boards and, with Kunitz setting a perfect pick on the Rangers D-man in front, is able to deftly one-arm a pass to Geno. Biron makes the initial stop on Malkin's gorgeous deke, but Geno gets his own rebound and stuffs it home! PENS 2, RANGERS 1

19:06: Pens are back to full strength.

20:00: Puck drops to start the second. Rangers start the period with 28 seconds left on the penalty to Orpik. Game on!

(Getty Images)

The Penguins controlled the majority of that period, starting with an early fluky goal from Matt Cooke and sustained with the help of two power-play opportunities, But the momentum swung over to the Rangers' side with a big goal from rookie Carl Hagelin with 6:24 left to play in the period, and they ended the opening frame on a power play that will carry over into the second.

- Captain Sidney Crosby has taken 5 shifts and played 4:56 minutes in his first game back since missing 40 straight (concussion-like symptoms/neck). 
- Crosby is 5-3 on faceoffs (63 percent) and has recorded one shot on goal.
- Crosby has played 2:24 minutes on the man-advantage.
- Letang led the Pens with 8:07 minutes.

(Getty Images)

0:00: That'll do it for the first. The two teams are tied 1-1 with goals from Cooke and Hagelin and Pittsburgh has an 11-6 edge in shots.

1:32: Orpik to the box for tripping on Hagelin. Staal, Adams, Michalek and Martin are the first four penalty killers on the ice for Pittsburgh.

2:50: Pens are being a bit loose with the puck in the neutral zone, which is always dangerous but especially against a team like the Rangers. Crosby had to leave the ice early on his last shift to get his skate checked, which has thrown off the lines somewhat.

6:24: Though play has been in their end most of this period, the Rangers make their shift in the Penguins zone count. New York's top line of Hagelin, Richards and Gaborik cause a net-front scramble and the puck eventually finds Hagelin's blade, who quickly roofs it for the score. PENS 1, RANGERS 1

7:16: Rangers kill this one off as well and go back to full strength. Shots are 9-2 in favor of Pittsburgh.

9:26: The Rangers game plan usually seems to center around getting Malkin off his game. He's knocked off his feet with two hard checks (Girardi and Boyle) during his shift, then Prust tries to mix it up with him after the whistle. Tempers flare as everyone on the ice converges. Prust goes to the box and Pens are back on the PP.

10:55: Crosby's first shift lasted 51 seconds, but his second went 1:29 minutes as his line drew a penalty and he stayed out for a good chunk of the power play.

12:12: Rangers kill off the interference call to Marc Staal (Jordan's brother).

12:47: Pens' second unit has Sullivan on the point, Staal and Cooke down low and Malkin and Letang still on the ice.

14:16: Crosby is absolutely flying out there. He's going into the tough areas with no fear. His line draws a penalty and we're going on the PP. As anticipated, Crosby is on the point with Letang and Malkin around the halfwalls and Kunitz and Neal down low. What a scary unit.

15:05: Speedsters Marian Gaborik and Carl Hagelin are off on a 2-on-1 with Letang as the lone D-man. Letang commits to Gaborik and forces him to pass, and Hagelin's one-timer is handled by Fleury.

     "@PensInsideScoop Off the defensemen, over the goalie, ring off the crossbar, off the defensemen's glove....Nothing but net."

17:06: Kennedy wins a battle in the corner to Cooke in the slot, who lofts a shot at the cage that sails high into the air, hits the crossbar, deflects down and takes a fortuitous bounce off Stu Bickel's glove into the net!!! Plus-1 for Sid as he was just outside the blue paint when it crossed the goal line. PENS 1, RANGERS 0

17:58: Crosby hits the ice for his first shift!!! (To a chorus of boos from the always-electric crowd at Madison Square Garden).

18:15: Yikes, good scoring chance for the Rangers just now. Orpik went to clear a puck around the boards and his stick snapped, taking some mustard off it and allowing Brandon Prust to pick it up. Luckily Fleury stayed tight to his post and kept the puck out.

     "CROSBY IS BACK! Oh and Kris Letang and Paul Martin. Lord Stanley here we come. Sid 4 points: 1 goal 3 assists. #Pens #Thekidisback"

20:00: Puck drops to start the first.

Welcome back, Sid. We missed you.

(Getty Images)

6:56 PM:
We've talked a lot about how the Pens want to overtake the Rangers for first place in the division and the conference, but haven't really discussed exactly why the Blueshirts are doing so well. I've broken it down here, or you can watch the abbreviated version below.

(NOTE: Martin Biron will get the start in goal for New York as starter Henrik Lundqvist still isn't game ready due to the flu. According to Bob Grove, the last time the Pens visited MSG and Lundqvist didn't start was Nov. 7, 2005 (Kevin Weekes, 3-2 Pittsburgh).

6:45 PM:
Pens scratch Jeffrey, Park, Tangradi, Lovejoy and Johnson. Here are the official line combos...



Fleury in goal.

(Not going to lie, that was a lot of fun to type. What a lineup).

6:30 PM:
Good evening everyone! In just a short while, we will be seeing Penguins captain Sidney Crosby return to game action for the first time since Dec. 5 as Pittsburgh prepares to battle the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Crosby has missed the last 40 games with concussion-like symptoms and a neck injury and it's been a long road back to health, but he's itching to get back on the ice and is ready to contribute.

In terms of 5-on-5 play, Crosby will begin by centering a line with Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy in order to best manage his ice time after such a long absence. Head coach Dan Bylsma said that could change throughout the course of the game, but that's where he'll start for now. Crosby will also man the point on the power play for the first time in his NHL career. For more details on how the Pens plan to adjust their lineup with 87's return, click here.

And Crosby won't be the only big name returning to game action for the Penguins tonight. Defenseman Kris Letang will also play after missing the last five games with symptoms from a hit he took on Feb. 29 vs. Dallas. The All-Star blueliner will be paired with Paul Martin, who is back after missing the last two games due to illness.

Tonight will be just the seventh game of the last 158 (playoffs included) that the team's core of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury have played together (stat courtesy of Bob Grove). With the exception of goalie Brent Johnson, who's rehabbing from an undisclosed injury, the Pens finally have a healthy lineup...and it couldn't be coming at a better time, as tonight is a must-win game for Pittsburgh if they want to finish first in their division (and they do).

The Rangers currently hold that spot (along with first in the conference). And if the Penguins want to have a chance of taking that away from them, they must win both of their remaining head-to-head battles starting tonight. (I've got more on that here).

Phew. Needless to say, there's been a lot going on these last few days since Sid announced he would be coming back tonight. But everything you need to know has been wrapped up in today's Game Day Report.

Sit back and get your popcorn ready for this one. It's going to be a blast watching a Pens squad (who's riding a nine-game point streak) back at full health in a game where the stakes are so high. Is it time for puck drop yet?!
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