Sidney Crosby (r.) celebrates one of his two goals as the Rangers fall to the Penguins in Game 2 of their opening round series.
Fail to score on power play. Surrender back-breaking goal. Repeat.
The Rangers’ 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night in Game 2 at the Garden was a maddening exercise in observation of a home team unable to cash in on its man advantage, which is supposed to be an NHL team’s trump card in the clutch.
When the Blueshirts weren’t on their 1-for-7 power play, they mostly were being outworked, outskated and severely outplayed as the underdog Penguins evened this first round series at one game apiece going back to Pittsburgh for Game 3 Monday night.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby scored two of Pittsburgh’s three unanswered goals in a dominant second period to overcome a 1-0 Rangers lead after the first. The Pens’ comeback mainly was possible because the Rangers’ woeful power play went 0-for-5 in the game’s first 38 minutes and four seconds.
Pittsburgh’s power play, meanwhile, scored on its first two tries. The Rangers slipped to 2-for-12 on the power play in the series (16.67%).
In Thursday night’s 2-1 Game 1 win, the Rangers had registered 13 shots on goal in the first period, including a goal by Derick Brassard 28 seconds in. But in Game 2 on Saturday night, they had just 13 total shots in the first full periods.
The Penguins were playing like they believe.
“I think we came to New York, and we knew they were the best team in the league, and we were on our heels a little bit,” Pens forward Max Lapierre had said Saturday morning. “But after the last two periods of Game 1, now we know we can play with this team, and we can beat them.”
The Rangers have lost home ice in the series for the time being, since Pittsburgh has three home games remaining to New York’s two.
Saturday night, Brassard scored on the Rangers’ sixth power play at 3:16 of a frantic early third period to start an attempt at a comeback, narrowing the deficit to 3-2. But the Blueshirts failed to cash in on their next power play.
Pens center Evgeni Malkin made an incredible clear of the puck off Pittsburgh’s goal line with his stick, and Chris Kunitz buried on the visitors’ second power play to stretch the advantage back to 4-2 after a Kevin Hayes penalty.
Kunitz’s goal was created by Pens center Brandon Sutter, the best player on the ice. The Penguins were agitated not only by the lopsided nature of penalties whistled but by a neutral zone collision between Rangers forward Carl Hagelin and Crosby. Crosby was shaken up but remained in the game.
Rick Nash scored with 3.8 seconds remaining.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault had asked officials to pay more attention to Pittsburgh’s presence in Lundqvist’s crease in Game 2, but the Penguins again spent more time in the box and yet it didn’t matter.
In the second period, even though Derek Stepan’s line drew a third power play in the early third, the man advantage failed to score. Sutter hit a post on a shorthanded rush, and the worried Garden could feel the Penguins coming.
An admittedly bad tripping call on Hagelin put the Rangers down a man, but those are the breaks. Sutter responded with the game-tying power play goal at 10:01 of the second. Crosby scored his two goals on even strength at 14:07 and 18:46 of the second period, each coming after failed Ranger power play opportunities.
Crosby’s first goal was an uncontested rebound with Dan Boyle ignoring the man and McDonagh late getting back. His second goal was the resulted of a failed cleared by Hayes. The rookie had a terrible night.
Saturday’s first period started tight. Zuccarello put the game’s first shot on goal 7:02 into the first period, and Evgeni Malkin didn’t get Pittsburgh’s first shot on Lundqvist until 8:56 in. But Stepan’s line, which had little effect on Game 1, generated the home team’s best early attack and gave the Blueshirts a 1-0 lead.
Captain Ryan McDonagh pushed the pace to J.T. Miller at the left offensive blue line, and Miller hit Stepan cross-ice. The center then sent a wrister top shelf at 17:05 for the early lead. Unfortunately, the first period concluded with the Rangers one of their many unsuccessful power plays, setting the tone for Pittsburgh to turn the tide.
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