The New York Rangers were unable to grab a 2-0 stranglehold on this series, and allowed the Pittsburgh Penguins to jump back into it with a 4-3 victory tonight at Madison Square Garden. In case you were counting at home, that's 10 of the last 11 times that the Rangers have dropped Game 2, and it's also their sixth straight Game 2 loss at MSG. So essentially, tonight was par the course for the Rangers, and it's becoming a yearly occurance.
However, the numbers doesn't excuse them from the poor effort they put on display tonight, and going 1-for-7 with the man advantage. The Penguins basically gift wrapped this one for the Rangers early on, but once again, their power play failed, and they weren't able to bury them during the early stages.
This game was deadlocked right from the opening face-off, with neither team giving an inch, which resulted in eight total shots between the two teams. Although, despite there not being many changes, the Rangers found a way to break through late in the period. Ryan McDonagh made an excellent outlet pass up to J.T. Miller, who then quickly dished it cross-ice over to Derek Stepan. Miller's perfect pass allowed Stepan to catch the puck in stride, and rip a hard wrist just off the crossbar and in behind Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Rangers were able to close out the period hanging on to their 1-0 lead, but the second period was a period to forget for the Rangers. The Penguins were able to pile on three consecutive goals during the second half of the middle frame, and changed the entire dynamic of this game heading into the third period.
Brandon Sutter got things started at the 10:01 mark after he tracked down a bouncing puck in front, and rifled it under Henrik Lundqvist to knot the game at 1-1. Four minutes later, Sidney Crosby was able to pounce of a loose puck in front of Lundqvist, and tapped it home for the Penguins first lead of the evening. Crosby continued to haunt the Rangers throughout the period, and eventually potted his second of the night with under two minutes left in the second period.
Kevin Hayes' failed clearing attempt set this chance up for the Penguins, and Chris Kunitz set up Crosby on the far side for the easy tap in. J.T. Miller attempted to get the inside lane on Crosby, but was unable to do so, which allowed Crosby to get enough of the puck to bang it home. The Rangers needed a big response early on in the third if they planned on get back into the game, and sure enough, they did.
The Penguins continued their parade to the penalty box in the third, and at the 3:16 mark of the third, the Rangers finally made them pay on the power play. Keith Yandle creates this entire goal with his vision, and he found Mats Zuccarello wide open to the right of the net ready to fire the one-timer. Fleury was unable to handle the initial shot, and Derick Brassard jumped on the loose puck to make it a 3-2 game.
Just as the Rangers were starting to find their groove, Kevin Hayes took a lazy hooking penalty in the offensive zone, and sent the Penguins to their second power play of the night. Just as the penalty was getting ready to expire, Chris Kunitz chipped home a backhand after Lundqvist was able to locate the rebound in front of him. This goal was essentially the back breaker for the Rangers, and they weren't able to find a way back into the game.
Although, Rick Nash did make things interesting with five seconds remaining after he flipped a loose puck over Fleury, and made it a one goal game again. Unfortunately, it was a little too late, the Rangers needed more than a miracle to tie the game up on the ensuing faceoff. Overall, it certainly wasn't a good game for the Rangers, and the power play let them down again big time.
Either way, it's just one game, and the league's best road team will get back to work on Monday in Pittsburgh. Hopefully we'll have a better outcome in Game 3.