|PIT||0||0||0||0||0 (0 - 3)||2|
|NYR||0||0||0||0||1 (1 - 3)||3|
Oct. 25, 2008
• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
In a thrilling comeback Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers erased a 2-0 deficit in the third period to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 in the shootout, with Henrik Lundqvist denying Sidney Crosby on Pittsburgh’s final shootout attempt to secure the victory.
The Rangers, who are 8-2-1 on the season with a league-leading 17 points, increased their lead over the Penguins in the Atlantic Division to three points with the win. The loss snapped Pittsburgh’s three-game winning streak.
“The win was huge,” said Lundqvist, who made 27 saves on the night, plus three more stops in the shootout. “It was a big game for us, and a statement to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins because they are a good team.”
Fredrik Sjostrom scored the lone shootout goal in three attempts for the Rangers, beating Marc-Andre Fleury with a backhander from in tight, while Lundqvist denied Kris Letang, Petr Sykora, and, finally, Crosby.
“That was classic Henrik right there,” said Rangers head coach Tom Renney. “Poised and confident in the shootout.”
Trailing 2-0 entering the third period, the Rangers finally broke through when Markus Naslund scored a power play goal at 5:09 to cut the Penguins lead in half. With Jordan Staal in the penalty box for hooking a hard-working Petr Prucha, the Rangers won an offensive zone face-off and sent the puck into the left wing corner. Scott Gomez collected the puck, skated along the goal line, and sent a quick pass on to the stick of Naslund, who fired a shot between the pads of Fleury for his third goal of the season, breathing life into the Blueshirts.
The Rangers would fire 18 shots at Fleury in the final stanza, but it wasn’t until the final one, with 8.1 seconds remaining in regulation, that they would tie the game. With Lundqvist on the bench pulled for an extra attacker, and moments after Pittsburgh had missed firing the puck into an empty net, Zherdev sped up right wing and sent a laser over the gloved hand of Fleury for his fourth goal of the season, tying the game 2-2, and sending The Garden into bedlam.
“That was the loudest I have ever heard this building,” observed Sjostrom. “It was just amazing for us to come back where we were just bombarding them with shots. And then to get the late one, and the place just erupted out there, it was one of the best moments I have had in here.”
Noted Renney of Zherdev’s goal, “It was a remarkable shot, no question about that. It was just a great, great shot.”
Despite the emotion provided by their third-period rally, the Rangers nearly lost the game on several occasions in the five-minute overtime session, but Lundqvist made sensational glove saves on Crosby and Rob Scuderi to keep the score tied. Scuderi’s shot actually deflected off of Sjostrom’s stick and jumped up toward the top right corner of the net before Lundqvist snared it at the last possible second.
The game seemingly had turned in the Penguins’ favor over a stretch of 2:37 late in the second period. First, the Pens upped their lead to 2-0 at the 15:59 mark when Crosby poked a loose puck behind Lundqvist for his third goal of the season. Lundqvist, who made four excellent saves, including a pair on former Ranger Pascal Dupuis during a wild Pens flurry, could not control a right-point shot by rookie Alex Gogligoski. The puck slipped behind Lundqvist, and Crosby tapped it over the goal line just as he was being checked to the ice.
Trailing by two goals, the Rangers were afforded a prime opportunity to get right back in the game only 37 seconds after Crosby’s score when they were awarded a full two minutes worth of a 5-on-3 power play.
Pens defenseman Brooks Orpik was whistled for a slashing penalty, and teammate Mike Zigomanis was penalized for interference at the 16:36 mark of the second, and the Garden Faithful rose as one fully expecting a good result. However, despite firing eight shots on goal during the two-man advantage, the Rangers were turned away by Fleury and the Penguins, and continued to trail 2-0.
Gomez actually did put the puck over the goal line just seven seconds after the power play began, but he pried the puck loose from Fleury clearly after the referee’s whistle had blown. Gomez had two other glorious scoring chances denied by Fleury, as did Chris Drury, whose shot from five feet out was stopped by the prone Penguins goaltender.
A frustrated Rangers squad thus skated into the second intermission trailing by two goals, and looking for answers as to how to get the puck past their nemesis Fleury.
And it was Naslund and Zherdev, two players who were not with the Blueshirts last spring when the Rangers were ousted in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in five games by the Penguins, who provided the third period answers, solving the riddle of Fleury.
“This should really develop the fiber of our team,” said Renney. “The ability to press on and not quit really helps solidify the standard of play here.”
The first period was played at a playoff pace by both teams. Swift skating, blocked shots, big hits, clutch saves, and extra effort were in abundance from both the Rangers and the Penguins, as the two rivals seemed to dial the clock back to May when they last squared off in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The first shot of the game was not recorded until nearly five minutes had elapsed on the game clock, as both teams created numerous turnovers in the neutral zone with solid defensive play, and several other potential shots were blocked. Even Evgeni Malkin, the league’s leading scorer, put his body in harm’s way by diving in front of a Marc Staal slap shot.
Staal also exemplified the extra effort on display on Saturday night when he rushed the puck the length of the ice, used a pretty inside-out move to shed a defender, and then put a backhand shot on net that was nullified by Fleury at the eight-minute mark of the first period. Staal’s Rangers teammate Prucha also drew cheers of approval when he dove through the air looking to bat the puck on net two minutes earlier. And later in the first period, Rangers defenseman Dmitri Kalinin delivered a textbook hip check that sent Malkin flying to the ice in the offensive zone.
With this kind of effort, the Rangers held the Penguins without shot on goal for the first 9:04 of the game. Unfortunately for the Rangers, Pittsburgh was able to convert its initial shot into the first goal of the game.
Veteran defenseman Daryl Sydor fired a slap shot from the left point that deflected twice off Ranger skates, eventually skittering across the goal line to give the Pens a 1-0 lead. It was the second straight night that the Rangers had been victimized on a fluky goal featuring more than one bad bounce as Columbus’ Jakub Voracek benefitted from several on his way to a breakaway goal Friday evening.
After scoring the goal, the Pens stepped up their offensive game, and Lundqvist had to be sharp to make sure that the Rangers trailed only 1-0 at the first intermission. Lundqvist made a lightning-quick right pad stop on Ruslan Fedotenko’s backhander, after a Jordan Staal steal and pass, at 14:50; and then Lundqvist slid perfectly into position to deny Dupuis after the Pens forward whipped a quick one-timer on net off a slick Malkin blind feed.
Lundqvist was forced to make several more big saves to open the second period, including a glove stop on a rising Petr Sykora wrist shot from right wing and a pad save on another in-close chance for Dupuis in the first few minutes.
It would take a dominating shift in the offensive zone from the fourth line of Blair Betts, Fredrik Sjostrom, and Colton Orr seven minutes into the middle stanza to finally get the Rangers going again. The threesome cycled the puck effectively, and created two excellent scoring chances, including one by Orr that was fired wide of the net as the rugged winger fell to the ice.
Unfortunately for the Rangers that shift did not produce a goal, and neither did any of their other shifts in the period, including the two-man advantage. But fortunately for the home team, a regulation NHL game is 60 minutes long. On Saturday, the Rangers needed nearly every second of those 60 minutes to rally against the Penguins.
With back-to-back victories Friday over Columbus and Saturday night against Pittsburgh, the Rangers look to close out their three-games-in-four-nights stretch with another win when they skate against the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Monday night.
|Darryl Sydor (1) ASST: Tyler Kennedy (3), Kris Letang (4)|
1 - 0 PIT
|Sidney Crosby (3) ASST: Evgeni Malkin (11), Alex Goligoski (1)|
2 - 0 PIT
|PPG - Markus Naslund (3) ASST: Scott Gomez (7), Chris Drury (3)|
2 - 1 PIT
|Nikolay Zherdev (4) ASST: Markus Naslund (6), Brandon Dubinsky (7)|
2 - 2 Tie
|1||N. Zherdev||K. Letang||0 - 0|
|2||N. Dawes||P. Sykora||0 - 0|
|3||F. Sjostrom||S. Crosby||1 - 0|
|Wade Redden Cross checking against Tyler Kennedy|
|Nikolay Zherdev Slashing against Eric Godard|
|Matt Cooke Holding against Blair Betts|
|Brooks Orpik Slashing against Nikolay Zherdev|
|Michael Zigomanis Interference against Chris Drury|
|Jordan Staal Hooking against Petr Prucha|
|Marc-Andre Fleury Delaying Game - Illegal play by goalie|
|SA: 44||TOI: 65:00|
|Saves: 42||EV: 30 - 31|
|PIM: 2||PP: 11 - 12|
|SV%: .955||SH: 1 - 1|
|SA: 29||TOI: 64:35|
|Saves: 27||EV: 25 - 27|
|PIM: 0||PP: 0 - 0|
|SV%: .931||SH: 2 - 2|