|NYR||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||3|
|PIT||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||4|
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Despite a pair of comebacks and an outstanding penalty kill that was a perfect nine-for-nine in the game, the Rangers were defeated 4-3 by the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday afternoon at Mellon Arena.
“It’s a big loss because we were right with them the whole game,” said defenseman Marc Staal, who played just under 29 minutes on Saturday. “We kept coming back and showed a lot of character.”
The Penguins -- now 12-1-2 in their last 15 games -- moved three points ahead of the Rangers in the Eastern Conference following Saturday afternoon’s contest. The Rangers, who have dropped two in a row and are 1-2-1 in their last four matches, remain in seventh place with 87 points on the season.
A great effort by Sidney Crosby resulted in the game-winning goal for the Penguins midway through the third period. Crosby accepted a long pass from Ruslan Fedotenko and burst past both Derek Morris and Wade Redden before snapping a fierce shot past Henrik Lundqvist for his 29th goal at 9:56 to give the Pens a 4-3 lead.
“It was a good hockey game that could have gone either way,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “They scored a big goal because we gave up the center of the ice. They scored the big goal to beat us, but our guys stuck with it and almost pulled it out.”
Though Crosby had played an outstanding game prior to scoring, the Rangers had done a commendable job in shutting down both Evgeni Malkin and Crosby -- Pittsburgh’s two superstar forwards. However, they couldn’t find a way to stop Fedotenko, who finished with a goal and two assists.
A controversial major penalty called against New York’s Colton Orr handed the Penguins a prime opportunity to break the 3-3 tie earlier in the third period. Orr was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for interference when he hit a falling Mark Eaton into the boards at 2:47. Eaton’s head hit the top of the boards and was cut, likely leading to the major penalty.
“I think we’ve done some great things with the rules, but you just need the teams to determine to results,” said Tortorella, who also noted that the officials did not give him an explanation for why Orr was handed a major.
“The players play hard, and they are the ones who should determine the result.”
Though two minutes of the major were negated by a hooking penalty whistled against Pittsburgh’s Chris Kunitz, the Rangers still had to kill off three minutes, which they did. But it wasn’t easy, as the Penguins masterfully controlled the puck in the Rangers’ end of the ice for nearly the entire three minutes. Somehow the exhausted Rangers’ penalty killers survived intact, with Lauri Korpikoski and Staal each making huge plays in front of Lundqvist.
“Our penalty kill was great again, and it killed a lot of penalties off,” observed Staal. “After that, though, you lose momentum because you spend so much energy while killing.”
The Rangers had been able to escape the second period tied 3-3 thanks to a late goal by Nik Antropov and some terrific work by the team’s penalty killing unit.
With the two teams skating 4-on-4, Antropov scored the tying goal at 15:16 of the second, outmuscling Eaton to corral a rebound of Chris Drury’s shot, and then outmaneuvered Eaton to slip a shot past Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
The goal was Antropov’s 27th of the season, which established a new personal career-high for him, snapping his previous high of 26 set a year ago. Antropov is now 6-4-10 in 12 games with the Rangers since being acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“It’s important, but for me it’s about the team, and we’re battling for a playoff spot,” explained Antropov. “Personal records are kind of in the background.”
Antropov’s goal made up for Fedotenko’s score at the 4:14 mark of the second which had given the Pens a 3-2 lead. Fedotenko finished off a 3-on-1 break by wristing his 14th goal past Lundqvist to the stick side.
Particularly frustrating for the Rangers was the fact that mere seconds before Fedotenko’s goal, the visitors had come within inches of taking a one-goal lead themselves. Scott Gomez was robbed on a point-blank one-timer by Fleury, and then had his rebound attempt stopped along the goal line by Pittsburgh defenseman Rob Scuderi.
The Rangers, though, were able to persevere and pull even on Antropov’s goal late in the stanza. Part of their success in doing so was due to their No. 1 ranked penalty killing unit which killed off all four Penguins power plays in the middle period.
The true star of the PK was Lundqvist, who made several big saves, including at least three on Crosby. Others stepped up during the kills, including forwards Fredrik Sjostrom and Blair Betts and defensemen Redden and Morris.
Brandon Dubinsky also had an excellent scoring chance while shorthanded, but his left-wing wrist shot during a 2-on-1 rush was smothered by Fleury at the 8:45 mark of the second.
Trailing 2-0, the Rangers pulled themselves back into the game on goals by Ryan Callahan and Dubinsky late in the first period.
With 1:32 remaining in the first, Gomez won an offensive zone faceoff in the left circle. Sean Avery chipped the puck slightly ahead to Callahan, who wasted no time sending a wicked snap shot past the gloved hand of Fleury for his 20th goal of the season.
The milestone goal -- signaling the first 20-goal campaign of Callahan’s young career -- cut the Rangers’ deficit in half, though they weren’t finished scoring just yet in the opening stanza.
For the second time in the past three contests, the Rangers scored a goal with exactly 4.4 seconds left in the first period. Nikolai Zherdev did it against the Minnesota Wild at The Garden on Tuesday night, and on Saturday afternoon he assisted on Dubinsky’s 10th of the season with the same amount of time remaining.
Dubinsky played give-and-go with Zherdev and scooted behind the Penguins net, stuffing the puck past Fleury’s left pad for a neat wraparound goal to tie the game 2-2.
To be even on the scoreboard after 20 minutes of play was quite a feat for the Rangers considering that they spotted one of the hottest teams in the league a two-goal advantage midway through the first.
“It was great that we got those two goals,” said Antropov. “It really showed the character we have in that room.”
Fourth-line forward Maxime Talbot opened the scoring at 8:57, just 14 seconds after a penalty to Morris had expired. Talbot burst behind defenseman Paul Mara and ripped a right wing shot between the pads of Lundqvist for his 11th goal, and the Pens had a 1-0 lead.
A great deflection by Talbot less than three minutes later helped Pittsburgh up their lead to 2-0. Tied up while driving to the net, Talbot still was able to redirect Malkin’s pass on goal, requiring an outstanding pad save by Lundqvist. Pens forward Matt Cooke charged into the slot and had his first rebound attempt stopped by a sprawling Lundqvist, but his second shot chipped over Lundqvist’s glove and into the net for his 10th goal at 11:20.
Rookie defenseman Mike Sauer was on ice for both of the Penguins first two goals, and as a result, he did not play again the remainder of the contest, logging only 1:59 worth of ice time. Mara, his defense partner, played under six minutes.
The other four Rangers’ defensemen were forced to add more minutes to their totals, with Dan Girardi leading the way with 31:15 worth of ice time.
“It was like playing two games for them,” Antropov said of the four Rangers’ defensemen. “They have to go every other shift to kill those penalties, and sometimes we got two or three (penalties) in a row.”
The Rangers will return to action on Monday night when they skate against the Devils at Madison Square Garden.
|Maxime Talbot (11) ASST: Ruslan Fedotenko (17), Brooks Orpik (17)|
1 - 0 PIT
|Matt Cooke (10) ASST: Maxime Talbot (9), Evgeni Malkin (74)|
2 - 0 PIT
|Ryan Callahan (20) ASST: Sean Avery (12), Scott Gomez (39)|
2 - 1 PIT
|Brandon Dubinsky (10) ASST: Nikolay Zherdev (34), Derek Morris (12)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Ruslan Fedotenko (14) ASST: Rob Scuderi (13), Tyler Kennedy (16)|
3 - 2 PIT
|Nik Antropov (27) ASST: Chris Drury (32), Dan Girardi (16)|
3 - 3 Tie
|Sidney Crosby (29) ASST: Ruslan Fedotenko (18)|
4 - 3 PIT
|Tyler Kennedy Fighting (maj) against Sean Avery|
|Sean Avery Fighting (maj) against Tyler Kennedy|
|Derek Morris Hooking against Evgeni Malkin|
|Evgeni Malkin Cross checking against Ryan Callahan|
|Eric Godard Fighting (maj) against Colton Orr|
|Colton Orr Fighting (maj) against Eric Godard|
|Wade Redden Interference against Tyler Kennedy|
|Matt Cooke Holding the stick against Nik Antropov|
|Marc Staal Hi-sticking against Matt Cooke|
|Bill Guerin Interference against Wade Redden|
|Paul Mara Interference against Sidney Crosby|
|Nikolay Zherdev Tripping against Jordan Staal|
|Brooks Orpik Tripping against Nik Antropov|
|Colton Orr Interference (maj) against Mark Eaton|
|Colton Orr Game misconduct|
|Chris Kunitz Hooking against Marc Staal|
|Nik Antropov Interference against Maxime Talbot|
|Chris Drury Hooking against Evgeni Malkin|
|Dan Girardi Tripping against Sidney Crosby|
|SA: 28||TOI: 59:16|
|Saves: 24||EV: 16 - 20|
|PIM: 0||PP: 8 - 8|
|SV%: .857||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 29||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 26||EV: 18 - 21|
|PIM: 0||PP: 6 - 6|
|SV%: .897||SH: 2 - 2|