Final Score: New York Rangers- 2 , Pittsburgh Penguins- 4
Series Wins: New York Rangers- 1 Pittsburgh Penguins- 3
Game four of the second round matchup between the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins resumed tonight. Since a 3-2 overtime win in Game one, the Rangers have struggled against the Penguins in Games two and three. The team was shutout in back to back fashion for the first time since the 1937 Stanley Cup finals against the Detroit Red Wings. Tonight was a pivotal game for both teams. For the Rangers, it was important to even the series at two games a piece. Also important was to get the crowd on their side and to win at home. For the Penguins, it was an opportunity to win, again, on the road, take a commanding 3-1 lead, and return home with the reassurance of one more win to advance to the third round.
To take the opening faceoff, the third line of Benoit Pouliot, Derick Brassard, and Mats Zuccarello were on the ice along with Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi on defense. A welcome applause from the Rangers faithful for Chris Kreider was heard went he stepped on the ice. Immediately, the Rangers took advantage of the enthusiasm and put the pressure on Marc-Andre Fleury with several attempts from Derek Stepan and Rick Nash. Shortly afterwards, Brooks Orpik welcomed himself to Madison Square Garden by putting a hard check on Brad Richards into the boards, near the Penguins bench. At 2:31 of the period, Evgeni Malkin took advantage of a defensive breakdown and giveaway. Pulling a 360, Malkin put the goal in Henrik Lundqvist’s five-hole, with the assist credited to Sydney Crosby. The Penguins went up 1-0. In the opening minutes, Pittsburgh took the pressure to the Rangers. They were able to get scoring chances and take advantage of turnovers. The Rangers tried to counter the Penguins’ attempts by generating some offense of their own. The third line was able to penetrate the offensive zone. There was a lot of pretty passing, amongst the team, but no goals. At the 12:23 mark, a penalty was called on forward Carl Hagelin for hooking, and the Penguins received their first power play opportunity. An aggressive penalty kill unit was up to the task. They were able to kill the penalty and prevent the Penguins from getting any shots during the power play. Shortly after, the Penguins were able to keep the puck in the net and jumped all over the Rangers, again. A brilliant stop from Lundqvist was made on Penguins forward Beau Bennet, who received the puck off the back wall. As the period went on, the Madison Square Garden crowd came alive; a welcomed addition for the weary Rangers. From that, the Rangers fed off the energy and a sustained attack was made possible. Especially evident of this was when Chris Kreider touched the ice. Unfortunately, a second penalty was assessed to Marc Staal for slashing on Malkin. However, the Rangers penalty kill stood tall, and killed the second Penguin power play opportunity. No goals and no penalties. Finally, a delayed penalty on Penguins forward Chris Kunitz was called for slashing on Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi, giving the Rangers their first power play of the game. You had to think the power slump weighed heavily on the Blueshirts. However, the Rangers could not get setup in Penguin’s zone. As the period ended, the Rangers were still on the power play. Fortunately, they had :51 seconds of carry-over time into the second period. Despite the scoreboard, the Rangers looked better and engaged. Perhaps the day off was much needed. However, there were mistakes that need to improve: turnovers and not enough hussle to the puck. If nothing else, the crowd at Madison Square Garden was present and urged the Blueshirts. Shots on goal were in favor of the Penguins, seven to six.
As the period began, the Rangers were on the power play, carried over from the first period. Near the end of the penalty to Kunitz, the Rangers were able to keep the puck in the zone. Despite at least two shots on goals from Nash and Kreider, the Penguins shutout the Rangers and extended the non-scoring slump to 35 with the man-advantage. A nice power move by Kreider was seen on Fleury. However, his attempt was thwarted as he was taken down and slid into Fleury. After some back and forth play, Hagelin came through and ended the scoring drought at 145:30 minutes. The assist was credited to McDonagh, his first point in this post season, to even the score at one. Despite the game being tied up, the Penguins immediately went on the offensive. They spent a good amount of time in the Rangers’ defensive zone and had grade “A” looks on Lundqvist. However, the “King” stood tall and was able to slow the pace down; giving the Rangers’ defense a much needed breather. Following the commercial break, the Penguins superstars of Malkin and Crosby threaten to score. After Lundqvist was able to stop their attempts, scoring chances for Nash and the Rangers surfaced. Kreider provided a net-front presence and could be seen making things difficult for Fleury. Despite this, the score remained one a piece. The Rangers’ overall play seemed to be elevated with the Hagelin goal. There appeared to be a jump in their step and their offensive rush looked more like the play we have been accustomed to all season. After another commercial break, the Penguins bench became shorter as Orpik went missing. Kris Letang left the game briefly, due to a skate issue. In a replay, it looked like Orpik was injured on a play with the Rangers’ Zuccarello. At the 2:41 mark, Malkin was called for a tripping penalty on Derick Brassard, giving the Rangers a second power play. On a failed attempt to get it over the Penguins’ blue line, Penguins forward Brandon Sutter took advantage of a turnover and scored a short handed goal. For the period, the Rangers gained momentum by stopping the shutout streak. However, mistakes with the puck caused the team to have to come back, again. The period ended with Pittsburgh having 11 shots on goal to the Rangers’ 5.
Now was the time to push back and even the score. At least give the fans hope. As the 3rd period started, the Penguins were able to get in on the Rangers defense. They were able to play with confidence and dictate the pace. Aside from a few players, the Rangers played with no life, no purpose. The Garden faithful seemed to regress back to just going through the motions of another Rangers period. At one point, the fans could be heard booing Nash when he tried to push the puck up ice. It appeared the ice opened up for the Penguins as Crosby and Malkin were able do what they wanted in front Lundqvist. I have to say, it was refreshing to see Kreider on the ice. Before the commercial break, he helped setup a play in the offensive zone, in which Nash eventually shot the puck on Fleury. Through the game, he was visible and relevant. After a bad turnover by Staal, Neal took the puck and dished off to Jussi Jokinen. Jokinen spun around and put the puck towards the net. It deflected off Staal’s skate and found the back of the net, past Lundqvist. The Penguins added to their lead for a 3-1 buffer. Frustration started settling in for the Rangers. With less than 10:00 left in the game, Kreider drew a hi-sticking penalty on Crosby. The Penguins had their third try at a power play goal. Shortly, after the Rangers were able to kill the Penguin’s man-advantage, Zuccarello came back and willed himself with the puck. The result for his efforts: a goal. It brought the team within one. Assists were credited to Staal and Anton Stralman. But just when you thought the Rangers gained a little momentum, Chris Kunitz scored a goal, making it 4-2 and another two-goal mountain to climb. Malkin and Crosby were credited with assists. Now time was against the Rangers. With 2:24 left in the period, Lundqvist was pulled in favor of the extra-man. As time trickled down, the Rangers had a difficult time of keeping the puck in the zone. When they did, the Penguins were able to block shots with their sticks and bodies. As the one minute mark came and went, so did the fans. Many empty seats in the lower bowl were seen in the broadcast. Boo’s showered the team and the unhappy feeling sank into the pits of stomachs. The Rangers were out shot nine to four . The Penguins now return to Pittsburgh with a three games to one advantage. The Rangers’ backs are against the wall and desperation will need to be present, if the team wants any opportunity of getting back in this series.
The Rangers are back in Pittsburgh on friday, 9 May at 7:00pm for game five.