|NYR||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||0|
|PIT||2||1||0||(0 - 0)||3|
• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
A highly-successful five-game road trip closed on a down note for the Rangers on Sunday afternoon as they dropped a 3-0 decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins at Mellon Arena.
Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury starred between the pipes, repeatedly stymieing the Rangers throughout Sunday’s contest. Fleury finished with 33 saves to earn his second shutout of the season and 14th of his career. It was also the second time over the course of his career that he had blanked the Rangers.
Although he was on the losing side, Henrik Lundqvist was excellent in goal for the Rangers. He made many outstanding stops among his 20 saves, including a huge penalty shot stop against Sidney Crosby early in the second period.
This trip, which began nine days ago with a 2-1 shootout loss in Buffalo and continued with victories in Ottawa, Long Island, and Chicago, concluded with the Rangers having earned seven of a possible 10 points. It also concluded with the Rangers holding the top spot in the Atlantic Division with 58 points.
With the victory, the Penguins moved into eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 50 points. The Penguins have now won two in a row, and three of their last four matches.
Sunday afternoon’s contest marked the first time that the Rangers had lost to the Pens this season. The Rangers had won all three previous meetings this season, which were all played at Madison Square Garden, including a 4-0 shutout in the most recent battle on Jan. 5. The two teams will meet again at Mellon Arena in 10 days on Jan. 28.
Though the Rangers were able to do a solid job containing Penguin superstars Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the first period, Pittsburgh still skated to the first break with a 2-0 lead on goals by the less heralded duo of Chris Minard and Tyler Kennedy.
Minard, a 27-year-old rookie, netted his first goal of the season -- and second of his NHL career -- at 7:35 of the first. After a sustained forecheck deep in the Rangers’ zone, Pittsburgh’s Petr Sykora collected the puck behind the net and backhanded a pretty pass to Minard in the slot. Minard was able to fire the puck over the shoulder of Lundqvist to give the Pens a 1-0 advantage.
Kennedy, a second-year forward, doubled Pittsburgh’s lead at 15:32, accepting a Miroslav Satan feed and snapping a wicked shot from the right dot into the cage for his eighth goal of the season.
Meanwhile Crosby -- who was returning after a one-game absence due to a lower-body injury -- and Malkin -- the league’s leading scorer -- both had fairly quiet first periods, with each player recording only one shot on goal. Malkin did have an excellent scoring chance late in the first, but Lundqvist made a sensational right pad stop on the quick shot from the slot at 18:48.
On that very same play, Crosby -- who made the pass to set up Malkin’s scoring chance -- was drilled into the right wing boards by Rangers’ defenseman Dmitri Kalinin. Crosby was slow to get up, and immediately headed to the Pens bench.
Both goalies had strong opening periods, with Pittsburgh outshooting New York 9-7. Along with the stellar stop on Malkin, Lundqvist also made a huge save on Jordan Staal’s breakaway 6:13 into the contest.
At the other end of the ice, Fleury was not tested as severely as Lundqvist, but he was forced into making strong saves on a Petr Prucha rebound try at 12:37 as well as a pair of in-close backhand attempts by Markus Naslund earlier in the period.
Fleury was forced to be on top of his game in the second period, and he proved to be up to the challenge, stopping all 16 Rangers shots he faced over the middle 20 minutes. He set the tone by robbing Nigel Dawes on an open rebound try from the low slot at 5:52, and then put an exclamation point on his work in the middle stanza by stuffing Chris Drury’s power play slam dunk attempt off a gorgeous cross-ice feed from Nikolai Zherdev at 15:33.
Though the Rangers doubled up Pittsburgh in shots on goal in the second, they headed to the second intermission trailing 3-0 after Sykora scored a power play goal at 7:32. Pens defenseman Ryan Whitney fired a crisp pass blueline to blueline right on to the stick of Sykora, who split the defense pair of Kalinin and Paul Mara before skating in and beating Lundqvist to the stick side for his 17th goal.
Sykora’s score was deflating to the Rangers, who had been buoyed by several big saves Lundqvist had made earlier in the period on Crosby -- who had returned to the game none the worse for wear after the Kalinin hit late in the first.
Just 1:52 into the second period, Crosby made an incredible move, slipping the puck between the skates of Wade Redden, and broke in on Lundqvist, who made a great save as Crosby was hooked to the ice by Ryan Callahan. As Crosby slid into the post of Lundqvist’s cage, the referee immediately awarded a penalty shot to the league’s second leading scorer.
Lundqvist, among the most successful goalies in the NHL in the shootout and penalty shot, stood his ground, gave Crosby nothing to shoot at, and calmly smothered Crosby’s forehand shot up high to keep the score, at the time, 2-0.
At 6:33, Lundqvist made another stellar stop on a tricky Crosby shot, and then followed by robbing Matt Cooke on his rebound try. However, a minute later Sykora was able to solve Lundqvist and hand the Penguins a three-goal lead.
Pittsburgh played a very strong third period, limiting the Rangers’ chances to help Fleury finish off the shutout. Perhaps the Rangers’ best scoring chance came while shorthanded midway through the third. Scott Gomez raced up ice and put a quality right wing shot on goal that required a big save by Fleury. As a result, the Rangers ended up being shut out for the third time this season.
The road trip now complete, the Rangers head back home to New York where they will play their final contest before the All Star Break on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden against the Anaheim Ducks.
|Chris Minard (1) Slapshot - ASST: Petr Sykora (17), Hal Gill (4)|
1 - 0 PIT
|Tyler Kennedy (8) Snap shot - ASST: Miroslav Satan (17), Rob Scuderi (9)|
2 - 0 PIT
|PPG - Petr Sykora (17) Wrist shot - ASST: Ryan Whitney (5), Jordan Staal (12)|
3 - 0 PIT
|Chris Drury Hooking against Tyler Kennedy|
|Marc Staal Hi-sticking against Miroslav Satan|
|Scott Gomez Hooking against Sidney Crosby|
|Philippe Boucher Interference against Scott Gomez|
|Sidney Crosby Roughing against Colton Orr|
|Colton Orr Roughing against Sidney Crosby|
|Evgeni Malkin Cross checking against Nikolay Zherdev|
|Blair Betts Interference against Bill Thomas|
|Lauri Korpikoski Hooking against Jordan Staal|
|SA: 23||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 20||EV: 14 - 16|
|PIM: 0||PP: 6 - 7|
|SV%: .870||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 33||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 33||EV: 27 - 27|
|PIM: 0||PP: 4 - 4|
|SV%: 1.000||SH: 2 - 2|