The first period of Sunday night’s Penguins/Rangers game, left fans on both side on the edge of their seats as the Pens took three quick penalties in the first seven minutes. Luckily, for fans at Consol Energy Center, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was able to stop all the shots he faced.
“You feel like you’re behind the 8-ball when you have six minutes of killing in the first 12 minutes of the game,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “I thought our killers did a great job, answered the bell, did an extremely god job. They had [two] shots on three of those penalty kills. They did an outstanding job and we gained momentum from there.”
Fleury’s 22 out of 22 blocked shots, gave Fleury his first shutout of the 2014 playoffs, and the seventh in his postseason career. He owns the most shutout wins in team history. The win also gave him his 50th playoff win, making him only one of 17 goalies in history to win 50 or more Stanley Cup playoff games.
On the other side, Henrik Lundqvist stopped 32 shots for the Rangers. His fellow teammates were not able to take the power play into their own favour, going 0 for 4 in the second straight game. The Rangers went the final 11:38 of the game without even a shot on goal. This was the first time the Blue Shirts have been shut out in the playoffs in exactly one year. The last time being a 1-0 loss in overtime to the Washington Capitals in another game too, subsequently on May 4, 2013.
In the first 7 minutes of the game, they had three opportunities to take the lead on power plays, but instead added to their 29 consecutive unsuccessful power plays, going back to game 2 of the first round against the Philadelphia Flyers.
They did manage to get one shot on goal when Chris Kunitz went to the penalty box for goalie interference, as well as one shot when Matt Niskanen was off for roughing, but alas no shots when Malkin was in the sin bin for boarding.
For Pens fans, it was a relief when the Pens survived the early test from the Rangers, but unfortunately for the Blue Shirt Army, the Rangers never fully recovered.
“We’re kind of one-and-done in the offensive zone, not really sustaining our forecheck” Girardi said. “And we don’t do that, they have pretty talented guys that are going to come the other way on you. We have to find a way to take the puck out of their skilled hands and have some O-zone time next game.”
Kris Letang finally broke the scoreless game with a goal at 10:26 on the second period. It was with the help of Malkin who carried the puck into the Rangers end and passed it across to Letang. He was tried to make a centre pass to Kunitz, but the puck ended up off the stick of Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi and past Lundqvist. It was Lentang’s 15th goal of the playoffs, tying him with Hall of Famer Larry Murphy, for most postseason goals by a defensemen in team history.
The Pens goalie made 10 of his 22 saves in the second, three of which came when the Rangers had their only power play of the period. One such save was from a point-black stop on a close off faceoff by Brad Richards.
All the way at the other end of the ice, King Henk was looking just as good. He stopped Kunitz on a breakaway after he leapt out of the penalty box. He got his right pad on a chance by Sidney Crosby, after a long diagonal pass through the zone by Brian Gibbons.
However, he couldn’t stop Jussi Jokinen’s power play goal with 3:30 remaining, it was off a rebound by James Neal. It extended the Fin’s scoring streak to six games; which adds up to three goals and three assists in the span.
It was Malkin who closed out game two with an empty-net goal with 53.5 seconds remaining on the clock.
The team doesn’t have much time to celebrate with game three being in New York on Monday night. Both teams flew up to the Alphabet City directly following the game. This is the Rangers second set of back-to-backs this postseason within a nine night period. They played Game 6 and 7 of the first round on consecutive nights.
Game 3 will be Monday night in New York at 7:30 PM ET and will be on NBCSN, CBC, RDS.