|NYR||1||0||1||(0 - 0)||2|
|PIT||1||2||0||(0 - 0)||3|
• PHOTO GALLERY
• RANGERS GAME CENTER
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
The Rangers fought valiantly on opening night in hostile territory, but couldn’t come away with a victory against the defending Stanley Cup champions, dropping a 3-2 decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night at Mellon Arena.
Down a pair of goals in the third period, the Rangers pulled to within 3-2 at 5:56 when Marian Gaborik scored off an aggressive rush into the offensive zone. Brandon Dubinsky led the charge, bursting over the Pens blueline on left wing before centering the puck toward the slot. The puck bounced over the stick of defenseman Matt Gilroy, but came directly to Gaborik in the slot. Gaborik made no mistake, wristing a quick shot into the cage for his first goal as a member of the Rangers.
“He’s pretty dangerous with the puck, and we’re going to rely on him quite a bit,” Rangers head coach John Tortorella said of Gaborik, who led all players with eight shots on Friday. We’re going to rely on him quite a bit to score some goals. He scored one tonight, and we’re going to get more out of him each game. I think he did some good things.”
Less than a minute after Gaborik’s goal, the Penguins were awarded a power play when Rangers rookie Artem Anisimov was whistled for a hooking penalty. The Rangers not only killed off the penalty, but Gaborik nearly scored a shorthanded goal on a quality chance from left wing during the sequence.
At 9:27 of the third, Pittsburgh’s Brooks Orpik was penalized for interference, handing the Rangers a prime opportunity to tie the contest. Again it was Gaborik with the best scoring chance, but to no avail as the Rangers failed to score on the two-minute man-advantage.
“I thought we had a bunch of chances to score there in the third, and we came out strong in the third and gave ourselves a chance to win, but unfortunately it was a little too late,” said winger Ryan Callahan, who was named as the team’s alternate captain by the coaching staff prior to Friday morning’s skate.
Henrik Lundqvist kept the Rangers within a goal by making a string of huge saves late in the third period, one on a Sidney Crosby spin-o-rama move, and a pair of sprawling stops to rob Craig Adams down low.
“Personally it just feels good to be out there again,” said Lundqvist, who finished with 28 saves. “It’s definitely different compared to the preseason.”
The Penguins had snapped a 1-1 tie by scoring twice in a span of 1:08 midway through the second period to gain control of the contest. Crosby scored from in front at 12:25, and Tyler Kennedy deflected a shot past Lundqvist at 13:33 to give the Penguins a 3-1 lead.
Crosby’s goal came immediately after the Rangers thought that they had dodged a bullet. Pittsburgh had taken off on a 3-on-1 break into the Rangers zone, but Vinny Prospal hustled back into the play to block Bill Guerin’s left-wing shot. Unfortunately for the Rangers, the puck carried to Kris Letang, and he zipped a quick pass into the slot where Crosby one-timed it past Lundqvist.
Pittsburgh’s Alex Goligoski and Jordan Staal combined to keep Michael Del Zotto’s clearing attempt in the offensive zone along the boards, leading to the Penguins’ third goal of the night just moments later. Goligoski snapped a long wrist shot through a screen in front that was deflected by Kennedy into the net for the goal, and a 3-1 Penguins advantage.
“For the most part, we were doing a real good job in the neutral zone, but a couple times turnovers in our own end cost us,” said defenseman Marc Staal.
Despite pledging on Thursday that he would have his team watch the Penguins’ pre-game banner-raising from the visitor’s bench, Tortorella shifted gears prior to the game when he was informed how long the actual ceremony would be.
When the Rangers did take the ice, they were faced with an amped-up opponent in an emotionally-charged building. Not surprisingly, as a result, Pittsburgh ran out to an early 7-2 advantage in shots, and scored the first goal 7:48 into the game.
Skating on the power play, with Chris Drury in the box for holding, the Penguins capitalized when Evgeni Malkin deflected Sergei Gonchar’s slap shot past Lundqvist. Malkin had his back to the net, and was surrounded by Michal Rozsival and Wade Redden, but was still able to reach his stick out and perfectly deflect the puck into the cage in an amazing display of hand-eye coordination.
Drury, though, made up for his penalty by scoring the equalizer for the Rangers late in the first period as the visitors refused to wilt following Malkin’s goal.
The Rangers took advantage when Marc-Andre Fleury’s clearing attempt caromed off the referee in the left-wing corner and directly onto the stick of the Blueshirts’ Christopher Higgins. Making his Rangers debut, Higgins earned his first point with his new club by quickly whipping a centering pass into the slot, where Drury tipped it past Fleury to tie the game 1-1 at the 16:01 mark of the first period.
Drury’s goal provided the Rangers with renewed life, and by the time the first period had ended, they trailed only 9-7 in shots on goal.
Carrying that momentum into the second period, the Rangers stormed out to the territorial advantage, and if not for some excellent saves by Fleury, could have easily taken the lead. Fleury lunged across the goal-mouth to rob Prospal on a 2-on-1 with Dubinsky at 3:16, and later made a strong stop with his pads to deny Ales Kotalik’s booming power play slap shot at 6:08.
Seconds after Fleury denied Kotalik, Gaborik accepted a perfect pass from Del Zotto, got in behind the Pittsburgh defense, but was stoned by a sprawling Fleury.
All of those big-time stops helped set the stage for the Penguins quick two goals midway through the second that stunned the Rangers and halted any momentum which they had built.
“We did some really good things in the second period,” said Tortorella. “We had some chances to score some goals. We needed to score some goals there when we had our chances, and we didn’t.”
Nine players made their Rangers debuts on Friday, and two -- Del Zotto and fellow defenseman Gilroy -- appeared in their first National Hockey League game. The 19-year-old Del Zotto – a first-round pick in the 2008 draft -- was in the starting lineup, and was paired at even strength with the veteran Rozsival. Del Zotto also played one point on the first power play unit alongside Kotalik.
“As soon as I got on the ice and I saw the packed crowd, it was unbelievable, I had shivers all down my spine,” said Del Zotto, who recorded one shot on goal while playing more than 17 minutes in his NHL debut. “It was just a great feeling.”
Gilroy, who confidently led the rush up ice all night long and finished with a plus-two plus/minus rating in his debut, was paired with Redden at even strength, and with Marc Staal on the second power play group.
“They did really well and looked really sharp,” Lundqvist said of the two rookies. “If they were nervous, they definitely didn’t show it. I’m happy for them.”
Donald Brashear, playing in his first game as a Ranger and the 990th of his long career in the NHL, engaged in a rugged heavyweight battle with Pittsburgh’s Eric Godard 12 minutes into the opening period. Brashear did receive a small cut on his forehead, but was able to return to action after being patched up by the Rangers’ training staff.
The Rangers are right back at it on Saturday night when they host the Ottawa Senators in their home opener at Madison Square Garden. And after a day off on Sunday, the Rangers cross the Hudson River to skate against the New Jersey Devils on Monday evening.
|PPG - Evgeni Malkin (1) ASST: Sergei Gonchar (1), Alex Goligoski (1)|
1 - 0 PIT
|Chris Drury (1) ASST: Chris Higgins (1)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Sidney Crosby (1) ASST: Kris Letang (1), Bill Guerin (1)|
2 - 1 PIT
|Tyler Kennedy (1) ASST: Alex Goligoski (2), Jordan Staal (1)|
3 - 1 PIT
|Marian Gaborik (1) ASST: Brandon Dubinsky (1), Marc Staal (1)|
3 - 2 PIT
|Chris Drury Holding against Alex Goligoski|
|Eric Godard Fighting (maj) against Donald Brashear|
|Donald Brashear Fighting (maj) against Eric Godard|
|Sidney Crosby Slashing against Marc Staal|
|Pascal Dupuis Hooking against Marc Staal|
|Brooks Orpik Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Artem Anisimov Hooking against Pascal Dupuis|
|Brooks Orpik Interference against Brandon Dubinsky|
|SA: 31||TOI: 58:41|
|Saves: 28||EV: 24 - 26|
|PIM: 0||PP: 2 - 3|
|SV%: .903||SH: 2 - 2|
|SA: 27||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 25||EV: 16 - 18|
|PIM: 0||PP: 8 - 8|
|SV%: .926||SH: 1 - 1|