Like the Stanley Cup Playoffs prove out so many times, nothing ever comes easily. The New York Rangers are realizing this right now.
It was a game that these New York Rangers would love to quickly forget. Actually, it was a second period made of nightmares as they have now lost their 10th Game 2 in the last 11 playoff series they’ve played in.
3 Stars of the Game:
- Sidney Crosby – 2 Goals
- Chris Kunitz – 1 Goal, 2 Assists
- Brandon Sutter – 1 Goal, 1 Assist
- Rangers: 26
- Penguins: 24
The first period featured a long feeling out stage. The pace wasn’t especially fast, but it was apparent the Pittsburgh Penguins came out with more urgency than was displayed in Game 1.
Nevertheless, it was Derek Stepan who got the scoring started late in the first.
On a beautiful feed by winger J.T. Miller, Stepan took a right-circle high wrister that beat Marc-Andre Fleury to the wide side.
— NHL (@NHL) April 19, 2015
At the midway point of the game, Carl Hagelin was penalized for a trip in the offensive zone. Although replay showed Hags didn’t trip the opposition, it was called nonetheless. The resulting power-play ended up as the springboard the Pens needed. Brandon Sutter slapped one past Lundqvist after a lifted puck found its way down to the ice. Lundqvist was desperately out of position as he couldn’t track the puck.
Then, only 4:06 later, Crosby put one home after Patric Hornqvist fought through a Marty St. Louis check en route to the goal. Crosby, again, found the back of the net just moments later on a fantastic pass by Chris Kunitz.
GOAL GIF: Sidney Crosby being Sidney Crosby. pic.twitter.com/lG7CPkLB8N
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 19, 2015
Entering the third, the Rangers made a noticeable adjustment to their power play. Alaign Vigneault put Derek Stepan back onto the point and went with four forwards on the first unit. The power play was humming and it resulted in a Derick Brassard goal to put the Rangers within one.
New York had yet another man-advantage a couple minutes later after Sutter took a hooking penalty, but could only hit the post on a Stepan shot from the point. Then, minutes later, Evgeni Malkin saved a goal as the puck teetered on the goalline behind Fleury.
That was the turning point in the game.
Instead of New York putting more offensive pressure on with the momentum, Kevin Hayes committed a weak, bad penalty in the offensive zone. This led to Sutter, who played a phenomenal game, drive hard to the net resulting in a Kunitz top shelfer.
It’s clear that the Penguins have taken the over-aggressive approach to this series. To the naked eye, it looks as though the Penguins need to be aggressive with the sticks, the hooking, the clutching and grabbing to keep competitive.
Even a blind man could see the Penguins are doing everything in their power to limit the ice for New York. Doing everything to stop their free-wheeling style of play.
Because of this, it’ll be up to the Rangers power play to capitalize on the power play after the Pens commit these penalties (which they will). Again, after a 1 for 6 power play percentage in Game 1, the Rangers came up small with a 1 for 7 in Game 2.
Look for the Rangers to stick with the four-man power play unit in Game 3 to get Hayes onto the second unit.
Fleury was outstanding in the game. He was the reason the Penguins stayed so close on Thursday night, and is partly the reason Pittsburgh is skating out of Madison Square Garden with the split on Saturday night.
Game 3 is scheduled for Monday night at the Igloo. The Rangers will need to adjust to the way the Pens are playing.
Momentum and adjustments are the name of the game to playoff hockey. This Rangers core has been incredibly resilient in their careers. Expect no different in Game 3.
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