The Penguins used a third-period five-goal explosion to alter a 1-0 deficit into a 6-2 victory to start their post All-Star playoff expedition on the right foot.
Pittsburgh got contributions from Jordan Staal
, Kris Letang
(two goals), Petr Sykora and Sidney Crosby
in the game’s final frame to pull even with the Florida Panthers with 50 points and tied for eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
“I mean it’s great for the confidence of the team,” Letang said. “I know we were struggling a little bit before the break. It’s just really important to win those game at home, especially against division teams. Like I said, it’s good for everyone, we have to build on that for games in the future.”
“It’s great just to get effort,” head coach Michel Therrien said. “When you score goals like that, a lot of guys are going to get confidence. It always feels good when you score a goal. I think it’s great.”
Staal started the scoring avalanche with his 15th score of the year just over one minute into the third period.
“We wanted to make sure that we started well early and we got the next goal,” Crosby said of the start of the third period. “Staalsy started it off, that was big for us. Staalsy started all that and we built it from there.”
Staal held the puck behind the Rangers net. He attempted a centering pass that deflected off of Rangers defenseman Marc Staal and past goaltender Henrik Lunqvist to give Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead.
The Penguins extended the lead on Letang’s first goal in 17 games. Crosby collected the puck and drew the attention of the Rangers. He then flipped a pass to Letang, who had plenty of ice in front of him, at the point.
It’s great just to get effort. When you score goals like that, a lot of guys are going to get confidence. It always feels good when you score a goal. I think it’s great. - Michel Therrien
“A great play by Sid; I can’t ask for a better play,” Letang said. “He was controlling the puck and he brought everyone on him so he left me wide open. I had the chance to take my time and pick a spot.”
Letang skated into the slot and roofed a wrist shot over the shoulder of Lundqvist, who had dropped to his knees in the butterfly position.
“I took my time,” Letang said. “I faked (a shot) and I saw nobody coming on me. Gilles Meloche, the (Penguins) goalie coach, told me always go high glove or high blocker against Lundqvist because he is really big and he covers a lot of ice down (low).”
Pittsburgh outshot the Rangers, 16-8, in the third period. The constant pressure forced New York to take a few penalties. The Penguins notched their third goal of the period while working on a five-on-three advantage.
Pittsburgh used some tic-tac-toe passing to setup the score. Ryan Whitney had the puck at the far point. He sent a pass to Crosby at the far goal line. Crosby made a one-time pass to Sykora, who had a goal in the first period. Sykora one-timed the puck but didn’t get a lot of power on the shot. However, the knuckle shot eluded Lundqvist for Sykora's second score of the game.
“Sid found me in the middle and I just tried to hit the net,” Sykora said. “I hit the five-hole. Sometimes the great shot isn’t going to beat you so I had some huge scoring chances lately and didn’t go in. It’s nice to see this one go in.”
Letang sealed the win by netting his first career two-goal game. Evgeni Malkin
hit the speedy blueliner through the neutral zone. Letang split two Rangers at the New York blue line before snapping a shot through Lundqvist’s five-hole.
“I had the whole ice to skate with the puck and I tried to get a better angle and try to move the goalie side-to-side,” Letang said. “I tried to get just a shot on net and it happened to be a goal.”
Until the end of the season it’s going to be tough. I think maybe we saw the urgency and it was really important to get those two points tonight. - Kris Letang
Crosby capped the evening with his 18th goal of the year. Malkin stole the puck along the far wall. He chipped the puck to Crosby in the far circle. Crosby threw a spinning backhand shot into the top-right corner of the net and over Lundqvist’s arm.
“I just tried to turn and fire it,” Crosby said. “It might have surprised (Lundqvist) a bit. I just tried to put it on net.”
Now the Penguins have to forget about this game and turn their attention to their matchup with New Jersey on Friday. For the rest of the season, the most important game on Pittsburgh’s schedule will be its next contest.
“Until the end of the season it’s going to be tough,” Letang said. “We have a lot of games against our division, so it’s going to be important to win those. I think maybe we saw the urgency and it was really important to get those two points tonight.”