After falling short against the Detroit Red Wings yesterday afternoon, the New York Rangers followed it up with yet another loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Defensive lapses, along with some fortunate bounces cost the Rangers two points this afternoon, as they dropped their second straight game. Henrik Lundqvist also started his second consecutive game since returning from injury, and had another strong outing.
Unlike like yesterday, the Rangers pulled a complete 180 and were absolutely surging throughout the opening minutes of the game. However, as good as the Rangers were, they were unable to solve Marc-Andre Fleury and the Penguins were able to withstand the early pressure. A little past the halfway mark of the first period, the Penguins received their first power play of the game, and took full advantage of it.
Patric Hornqvist shoveled a puck on net from behind the goal line with Lundqvist still transitioning over to the post, and he was able to slip it over the goal line. The puck wound up banking off of Lundqvist's back and opened the scoring for the Penguins. A few moments later though, the Rangers rushed up the ice on a 3-on-2 rush, and picked apart the Penguins with several crisp passes.
Eventually, Derek Stepan broke in with plenty of time and space, and found Chris Kreider planted in front of the net all by himself. Stepan put the puck in a perfect spot for Kreider, and all he had to do was get his stick on the puck to even up the game at one. Given how the Rangers started the game, they probably deserved that goal much earlier, but nonetheless, they found a way to respond.
After a strong start to the game, the Rangers fell off a bit during the second period and allowed Conor Sheary to run the show on them. Just 7:30 into the period, Sheary was able to break free in front of the net, and got a nifty little deflection on Justin Schultz's point shot. Lundqvist was able to react in time to make the save, and the puck just sailed over his shoulder.
Thankfully, about a minute and a half later, the Rangers went on the power play and responded immediately with a goal. Derick Brassard's blast from the point wound up ticking off of a few legs on its way to the net, and found a way to slip in behind Fleury. Chris Kreider did an excellent job of providing the screen at the top of the crease, and never allowed Fleury a chance to locate the puck.
Nearing the end of the 40 minutes, Conor Sheary made his presence known yet again and absolutely bolted by Kevin Hayes in the neutral zone. Tom Kuhnhackl was able to chip a pass into the zone, and Sheary finished the job on the breakaway. That gave the Penguins a 3-2 lead at the end of the second period, while the Rangers were only able to generate two total shots.
Ryan McDonagh gave everyone a sense of relief early in the third period, after he made a great individual play and fooled Fleury on the wraparound. The early tying goal gave the Rangers some jump in their game, and they continued to push forward looking for another goal. Unfortunately, things spiraled out a control a few minutes later, and the Penguins eventually regained the lead.
Matt Cullen wound up drawing a tripping penalty on Derick Brassard behind the net, and continued to keep the play alive. From his knees he quickly fired a pass out to the front of the net, but instead of finding a teammate, he banked the puck in off of Marc Staal's skates. That restored the Penguins one goal lead, and pretty much sealed the game in Pittsburgh favor.
With the goaltender pulled and the Rangers looking for the tying goal, Sidney Crosby iced the game with an empty net goal, and gave the Penguins the 5-3 win. After dropping two consecutive games this weekend, the Rangers will head out west to California for a meeting with the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday evening.