|PIT||0||0||0||0||0 (1 - 2)||2|
|NYR||0||0||0||0||1 (3 - 3)||3|
• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
This script was oh-so-similar to the Rangers’ only other meeting with the Pittsburgh Penguins this season. The Rangers rallied from a 2-0 deficit, tied the game in the third period, and won it in the shootout, defeating the Penguins 3-2 on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
Back on Oct. 25, the Rangers beat the Penguins in the same manner by the same exact score in the very same building. An incredible case of déjà vu has given the Rangers two extremely important victories against one of their biggest rivals in the Eastern Conference.
Markus Naslund, Nikolai Zherdev, and Fredrik Sjostrom all beat Pens goalie Dany Sabourin in the shootout Wednesday night, while Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist stopped one of the two shots he faced before Sjostrom’s goal finished off the Penguins. The Rangers are now an incredible 7-1 in games decided by the shootout this season, and they regained sole possession of first place in the East with 38 points.
“This was a bit of a statement game for us,” stated Rangers head coach Tom Renney.
Scott Gomez and Wade Redden each recorded a pair of assists for the Blueshirts, and Lundqvist turned aside 29 shots. Collectively as a team, the Rangers allowed the top two scorers in the NHL, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, only one point combined.
“This is what hockey is all about,” said Gomez. “We see them so much that we don’t like them, they don’t like us. It’s great hockey, and The Garden is rocking. This is why you play the game.”
Trailing 2-1 late in the third period, the Rangers tied the score on Petr Prucha’s first goal of the season. Redden tipped a pass to Gomez in the high slot, and Gomez fired a shot just wide of the net, but one which caused Sabourin to slide out of position. Prucha burst through the check of defenseman Alex Goglioski and knocked the puck over the goal line to tie the game 2-2 at 14:03.
“I am really happy and really relieved,” said Prucha. “Now I just have to keep it going. Tomorrow is another game and I just hope I can do what I did today.”
Prucha, who had not recorded a point in any of the eight games in which he had played this season and who had been scratched in 10 consecutive matches prior to Wednesday, jubilantly thrust his arms into the air and then was mobbed in the corner by his teammates. The crowd erupted into a long chant of “Pruuuu” in honor of the popular 26 year-old forward.
“Everyone in this room is so happy for Petr,” explained Sjostrom. “He really deserved that. He is such a great guy, and he works so hard.”
That Prucha scored such an important goal was much deserved because his effort throughout thes contest was exemplary. Prucha played with tremendous energy and created numerous scoring chances for the Blueshirts, in particular in the third period. He also played a very physical game, as did most of the Rangers.
The No. 1 target for the Rangers much of the game was Crosby, who was deposited on to the seat of his pants on at least a half dozen occasions, most notably late in overtime when defenseman Marc Staal lifted him off his skates with a check during a one-on-one battle in the slot.
“As a team we really tried to finish our checks, not only on (Crosby), but on everybody,” said Renney. “I was really impressed with how we did that. To beat great players you have to impede their progress somehow, and finishing checks is one of the ways to do that.”
A spirited first period was kick-started when Colton Orr and Pittsburgh heavyweight Eric Godard dropped the gloves at 2:46 and engaged in a bruising fight which brought the crowd to its feet and energized the players on the ice.
After a strong start to the first, the Rangers struggled with an aggressive Penguins forecheck as the period wore on. As a result, the Rangers were outshot 12-6 and trailed on the scoreboard 1-0 at the conclusion of 20 minutes of play.
Ironically the turning point in the first should have been in the Rangers favor, but instead led to the only goal in the period scored by Pittsburgh.
Orr drew a pair of minor penalties against Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik at 12:23 providing the Rangers a four-minute power play. The rugged Rangers forward delivered a crunching hit on Crosby along the right wing boards in the Penguins zone, drawing the ire of Orpik. Coming to the defense of Crosby, Orpik went back at Orr several times, receiving unsportsmanlike conduct and tripping penalties along the way.
“He was unbelievable tonight,” Sjostrom said of Orr. “He gives 100 percent every game, and it’s a tough line of work that he’s doing. He never backs down, and is such a great teammate.”
However, 55 seconds into the extended power play, the Rangers were caught with too many men on the ice, wiping two minutes off their man advantage. During the ensuing 4-on-4, a clutch play by Crosby led to the first score of the night.
Forechecking aggressively, Crosby stole the puck from defenseman Dmitri Kalinin at the right-wing circle in the Rangers zone. Crosby then swooped behind the net and sent a perfect pass on to the stick of teammate Mark Eaton, who was charging to the net a step ahead of the back-checking Brandon Dubinsky. Eaton whipped the puck past Lundqvist for his first goal of the season, and the Penguins had a 1-0 lead at 13:56 of the opening stanza.
The Rangers picked up their level of play after killing off two straight Penguins power plays to open the second period. Ryan Callahan came close to tying the game on a mad dash down right wing and around Eaton, only to have his falling-down shot be denied by Sabourin at 8:20. Forty seconds later, Orr accepted a long home run pass at the Pens blueline, only to have his clear path to the net cut off by the referee, who failed to get out of the way of Orr.
That came back to haunt the Blueshirts as on the return trip up ice, the Penguins scored to grab a 2-0 lead. Pittsburgh defenseman Rob Scuderi teed up a slap shot from the right point and Jordan Staal deflected the puck past Lundqvist for his eighth goal at 9:35.
Perhaps spurred on by frustration, the Rangers clawed their way back into the game when Zherdev scored his ninth goal at 10:56 after a terrific individual effort by Gomez. Starting the scoring play by flying up left wing into the Penguins zone, Gomez threw a centering pass untouched through the slot, only to hustle around the net and retrieve his own pass on right wing. Gomez then circled to his left and blasted a shot at Sabourin which was deflected into the cage by Zherdev, cutting the Penguins’ lead to 2-1.
After quality play at both ends of the ice, the middle stanza ended with a flourish of exciting plays. At 17:36 the Penguins charged over the Rangers blueline on a 2-on-2 rush while shorthanded, only to have Lundqvist make an excellent pad save on Staal. Then at 18:40 Orr hammered Crosby to the ice with a hard, clean hit just as the NHL’s second leading scorer was winding up to shoot. And with 30 ticks remaining on the clock, Michal Rozsival stood up Malkin in the slot and stole the puck from the top scorer in the league before he could fire a shot at Lundqvist during a partial breakaway.
Plays like the ones made by Orr and Rozsival helped the Blueshirts limit the Penguins to only seven shots on goal in the second. The Rangers finished the period with nine.
“I think everyone stepped up tonight,” said Gomez, who reached 400 career NHL assists with his hand in both Rangers goals. “The way we played from the second period on is the team we need to be.”
The Rangers will face another stiff test on Thursday night when they skate in Montreal against the Canadiens. It will be the first of four meetings between these two Original Six teams this season.
|Mark Eaton (1) ASST: Sidney Crosby (22)|
1 - 0 PIT
|Jordan Staal (8) ASST: Rob Scuderi (5), Matt Cooke (8)|
2 - 0 PIT
|Nikolay Zherdev (9) ASST: Scott Gomez (11), Wade Redden (9)|
2 - 1 PIT
|Petr Prucha (1) ASST: Scott Gomez (12), Wade Redden (10)|
2 - 2 Tie
|1||M. Naslund||M. Satan|
|2||N. Zherdev||K. Letang|
|Eric Godard Fighting (maj) against Colton Orr|
|Colton Orr Fighting (maj) against Eric Godard|
|Ryan Callahan Boarding against Petr Sykora|
|Brooks Orpik Tripping against Colton Orr|
|Brooks Orpik Unsportsmanlike conduct|
|Petr Prucha Too many men/ice - bench|
|Scott Gomez Tripping against Evgeni Malkin|
|Aaron Voros Hi-sticking against Hal Gill|
|Maxime Talbot Hooking against Fredrik Sjostrom|
|SA: 27||TOI: 65:00|
|Saves: 25||EV: 23 - 25|
|PIM: 0||PP: 2 - 2|
|SV%: .926||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 31||TOI: 64:59|
|Saves: 29||EV: 25 - 27|
|PIM: 0||PP: 3 - 3|
|SV%: .935||SH: 1 - 1|