Originally written on Bleed Black & Gold  |  Last updated 3/16/12

I’m going to have to go to the thesaurus to find more words for dominate, punish, beat, destroy etc because that’s what the Penguins have been doing to their opponents lately and I’m starting to feel repetitive.    It doesn’t hurt that a couple more of our big guns returned to the lineup last night in Kris Letang and that guy Sidney Crosby.  Add that to the already dominant play of Malkin, Neal, Staal and Fleury just to name a few and the rest of the NHL should be shaking in their skates.

Less than 3 minutes into the game Matt Cooke scored his first of two goals of the night on Sidney Crosby’s first shift of the game to make it 1-0 early in the contest.   The Rangers first line who has been playing really well lately tied it up with a Carl Hagelin goal with under 7 minutes left in the first period.  They ended the first period with a Brooks Orpik penalty ending the first period on the penalty kill and starting the second period on it as well.

No problem though, with the Rangers not being able to penetrate the Penguins vicious kill unit, when we went to full strength a beautiful pass from James Neal to Evgeni Malkin who fought hard and put the puck in the net for his 39th goal of the season.   Just over a minute later Matt Cooke recorded his second goal of the night with assists from Tyler Kennedy and Jordan Staal.  Staal’s assist kept his point streak alive at 9 games.   Little did we know but Cooke’s second goal would be the game winner for the Penguins.  The Rangers top line again managed to put another one behind Fleury this time from Marian Gaborik.  The second period ended on more penalties when the Rangers’ Stu Bickel got a 4 minute double minor for a high stick to Staal’s face only to have Chris Kunitz get a penalty as well during that time.

The third period was where the Penguins just broke the will of the Rangers tallying two more goals.  Chris Kunitz scored just seconds after the Penguins power play was over on a pass from Sidney Crosby.  Pascal Dupuis then scored the 5th and final Penguins goal a few minutes later.  I think though the nail in the coffin for the Rangers was the ridiculous save that Marc-Andre Fleury made with just over 6 minutes left in the game (see below).   Fleury has played really great and last night was his 38th win this season.

The Penguins now are only 4 points behind the Rangers with one game in hand and one more match up with the Rangers.  There is a definite possibility that they can pull out the upset over the Rangers in the standings.  The Rangers have been sitting atop the Eastern Conference for most of the season.  I believe it is pretty clear that the Penguins are the team to beat, now and with a healthy team, it’s not going to be an easy task for any team.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbC0n0ysNXQ

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