Originally written March 15, 2012 on Blue Seat Blogs:
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The return of Sidney Crosby promptly ended the Rangers mini-winning streak as the Pens dropped the Rangers tonight 5-2 at Madison Square Garden.  The Blue shirt’s Jekyll and Hyde play in this game ultimately was their undoing.  There was a lot of positives to take away from this game as well as quite a few negatives.  To the bullets…
  • 1st Period
  • The Rangers started off the game trying to establish a physical presence.  Boyle and Prust were targeting Malkin relentlessly.  Unfortunately, that physical edge would not last long.
  • It seemed like the Rangers were getting their bearings for the first half of the period.  They almost needed to prove to themselves that they could skate with Pittsburgh.
  • Tough bounce on the Pen’s first goal.  Biron made a nice pad save and the rebound went off the crossbar, off Bickel and into the net.  1-0 Penguins.
  • The PK unit looked great in the first.  They were all over Crosby at the point and not allowing the wingers to gain possession along the sidewalls.
  • Carl Hagelin was able to pot a rebound chance off a scramble in front to tie the score at the 13:36 mark.  That line was at it again. 1-1.
  • Marty Biron had a rock solid first period, with great saves on several Penguins chances.
  • 2nd Period
  • Carl Hagelin was the best player on the ice (non-Malkin addition) in the first period and continued his strong play into the second.  He was a forechecking machine and created several turnovers in the offensive zone.
  • James Neal had a tremendous individual effort on Malkin’s goal.  He stripped the puck from Ryan McDonagh and made a fantastic pass to Malkin on the doorstep to give the Pens the lead.  2-1 Pittsburgh.
  • 1:12 later, Matt Cooke put the Pens up by a pair.  Broken defensive coverage allowed Cooke to sneak in the far side for basically an empty net goal.  Gabby got caught in no man’s land on the back check. 3-1 Pens.
  • The Rangers got some chances in the latter half of the second.  Marc-Andre Fleury had an unbelievable glove save on Marian Gaborik, and Brandon Prust followed that up by banging one off the crossbar.
  • The Rangers would pull within one with about five and a half minutes to go in the second.  Gaborik made a terrific back pass on a give and go to Brad Richards and eventually found himself in the slot and buried the shot under Fleury’s right arm.  3-2 Penguins.
  • Late in the second period, the Ranger’s lost Artem Anisimov with an upper body injury sustained on a body check.  He would not return for the remainder of the game.
  • 3rd Period
  • Play was a little timid to start the third.  The teams started out 4-on-4 before the Penguins would eventually see the last minute or so of the double minor to Stu Bickel assessed at the end of the second.  The Rangers did a nice job killing the penalty, but as it was expiring, Brian Boyle blocked a shot that left him limping.  It was essentially a 5-on-3 as Bickel raced from the box and Chris Kunitz was able to beat Marty Biron over his right shoulder off a feed from Crosby.  4-2 Penguins.
  • The Penguins would put the final nail in the coffin several minutes later after Pascal Dupuis banged home a rebound that Biron probably should have controlled or deflected.  5-2 Penguins.
  • The Rangers had several good chances in the final 6 minutes or so but Marc Andre Fleury had a couple ridiculous saves.
Goaltending analysis
  • Marc Andre Fleury was terrific tonight, making 29 saves.  He quashed several good scoring chances the Rangers (mostly the Hagelin-Richards-Gaborik line) created.  His glove was a major weapon tonight.
  • Marty Biron obviously faired a little worse than Fleury in this one.  Overall, I thought he played pretty well though.  The first goal was a brutal bounce and there was very little he could have done on the Malkin and Cooke goals.  The rebound on Dupuis’ goal and his positioning on Kunitz was a little sketchy, but he battled and made some nice saves for the team.
Random thoughts
  • Although the result is not what we were all looking for, it wasn’t as bad as the score would indicate.  Considering the absences of Lundqvist, Callahan and Del Zotto, the Rangers could have played much, much worse.
  • That said, the Rangers lost this game when they stopped forechecking and maintaining their physical edge.  The only line that was really doing much of anything offensively was the new top unit.
  • Too many wide shots tonight.  When your opportunities are limited, you need to at least force the goalie to make a save.
  • Kris Letang was +5 tonight.
  • McDonagh had a rough game.  He saw Staal take his spot on the top pair after the Malkin goal and made a few questionable decisions as the game went along.  Hopefully he can put it behind him and come out strong against Colorado.
  • The secondary scoring has to start to come with some consistency.  The Stepan-Dubi-Anisimov line has to be better than they were tonight.  They showed flashes of promise, but they need to put it together consistently.
  • Even though Crosby’s line did some damage, I actually thought they defended him personally pretty well.
  • Health is so unbelievably important down the stretch into the playoffs.  This team needs Cally/Hank/DZ back asap.
Off tomorrow then the red hot Avalanche come to town Saturday night.
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