By Jim Cerny, BlueshirtsUnited.com
The Rangers hung with the red-hot Penguins for most of their matinee Saturday afternoon, and did a terrific job in shutting down the league's top two scorers in Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz all afternoon long. But in the end the Penguins pulled away for a 3-0 victory over the Rangers based on the play of their less-heralded players.
The defeat was the third straight for the Rangers, who finished their longest road trip of the season 1-3-0. They have been outscored 9-2 in their last three games, previously falling by identical 3-1 scores in Buffalo on Tuesday and in Winnipeg on Thursday.
Tyler Kennedy scored a goal and added an assist for the Penguins, who have won eight games in a row and lead the Eastern Conference with 42 points. Dustin Jeffrey added a pair of assists, and Marc-Andre Fleury posted his first shutout of the season. It was also Fleury's 23rd career shutout, and fourth against the Rangers. He finished with 23 saves.
Trailing 1-0, the Rangers saw the game disolve in a span of 43 seconds early in the third period when Kennedy scored a power play goal at 6:34 and Pascal Dupuis followed with his 14th goal at 7:17, beating Henrik Lundqvist with a pretty backhand finish off a Jeffrey pass.
This one could not have started out any worse for the Rangers, but they persevered, eventually found their footing, and only trailed by a goal entering the third period. First Rick Nash hobbled off the ice on the game's opening shift after blocking a shot with his leg. Then, with Nash being attended to by trainer Jim Ramsay in the runway heading to locker room, Pittsburgh's Beau Bennett ripped a right-circle shot past Lundqvist just 90 seconds into the game to put the Rangers in a 1-0 hole.
The rookie Bennett's second career goal stood up into the final period of play as Lundqvist---in the first period---and Fleury in the second---played solidly in goal for their respective teams. Lundqvist was very sharp after allowing Bennett's goal, and he needed to be as the Penguins dominated the opening 20 minutes---not only outshooting the visitors 13-4, but posessing the puck and making the Rangers chase it nearly the entire period.
The Rangers did not record their first shot on goal until 11:03 had elapsed in the game. Brad Richards was credited with that power play shot. Though not generating much offense early on, the Rangers played a physical brand of hockey, while also blocking 11 shots in the first period. The Rangers were particularly hard on Crosby, who earned a coincidental roughing minor with Dan Girardi late in the period, and who was rubbed out hard into the glass by Ryan McDonagh on a pair of occasions.
Fleury stepped up for the Penguins early in the second as the Rangers came to life. First he made a solid pad save on Nash's spinning shot from the low slot just 40 seconds into the middle period; and then he battled to keep Carl Hagelin's tricky left wing snap shot from crossing the goal line at 1:15. Fleury stopped all ten Ranger shots in the second period, while Lundqvist stopped all six Penguin shots to keep the score 1-0 after 40 minutes of play.
The Rangers, who were shut out for the third time this season---and for a second time by the Penguins, return to Madison Square Garden to play three of their next four games, starting with Monday's contest with the Carolina Hurricanes.