Tonight the Pittsburgh Penguins entered Madison Square Garden for the second time this season. The New York Rangers won the first meeting between the two hockey clubs by a dominating score of 5-1. They looked to repeat that same success this evening and they also looked to become better and improve on home ice, which is an area where they have struggled tremendously.
The first period featured no scoring and nothing more but some back and forth play between the two teams. Derek Dorsett led the way with a season-high six hits in the opening period. The Penguins had some prime scoring chances that were either saved by Henrik Lundqvist, blocked, or sent wide of the net. I feel the best chance of the period was in the latter stages where Brad Richards tipped the puck ahead to Mats Zuccarello, who came in on a partial break but his backhand shot was denied by Marc-Andre Fleury. The teams entered their respective locker rooms tied at 0-0.
In the middle stanza, we saw much of the same. Back and forth play and some chances for both teams. Until we started to see the penalties roll in. When you put one of the best powerplays on the ice, they are going to take advantage. It just so happens that the Penguins cashed in on their second opportunity of the game. After Jussi Jokinen took the puck to the front of the net and put a shot on goal, the puck was sitting in the crease where Chris Kunitz was able to slam it home, making it 1-0 in favor of the away team. Less than three minutes later, shortly before a four-on-four situation was about to expire, Carl Hagelin used speed to his advantage and was able to slip a backhander through the five-hole of Fleury, tying the game at 1. After this goal, the Rangers seemed to pick up their game and generate more offense and sustain their forecheck, but the second period would end with the teams tied once again but this time by the scoreline of 1-1.
Heading into the third period, it seemed like the Rangers had some momentum going on their side, until the well was sucked dry when the Penguins cashed in and scored two goals in a span of one minute. Pascal Dupuis and Brandon Sutter cashed in and made the game 3-1. The Rangers stuck with it however and did not quit on the game. After John Moore threw a shot on net that Fleury mishandled, Zuccarello charged the net and jumped on the rebound to make the game 3-2 with about seven minutes left in the game. With 1:46 remaining in the game the unthinkable then happened. After it looked like New York was down and out, Derick Brassard came streaking in down the left side-boards to cash in on Benoit Pouliot‘s shot which went wide of the net and caromed straight to Brassard. The buzzer sounded with the game tied at 3-3 with both teams earning a point.
The overtime period was filled with excitement as the Rangers had a four-on-three opportunity after Kunitz sat for two minutes for goaltender interference. New York could not cash in however and the Penguins generated a few opportunities of their own which were solidly denied by the goaltending abilities of Lundqvist. After a five minute period, the teams were still tied, so they headed to a shootout, which became the second straight game the Rangers were involved in one after defeating the Calgary Flames in one on Sunday.
Overall, the Rangers showed tremendous courage coming back from a 3-1 deficit against the best team in the Eastern conference.
I have never liked the shootout and I never will. It’s a skills competition and it is certainly not a fair way to win/lose a game after battling for 65 minutes. It should end as a tie if there is still no winner after the five minute OT period, but hey, that’s just my opinion.
The Rangers now get a day of rest on Thursday and come back to the Garden with a chance to pick up two points against a struggling New York Islanders team that has had difficulty to find their identity so far this season.
Here are my personal three stars from tonight’s game:
Enjoy the night and gear up for a classic rivalry game on Friday night!