The New York Rangers got exactly the start they were looking for tonight, but unfortunately, they were unable to sustain it for the remainder of the game. After a period and a half of rather flawless hockey at both ends, the Rangers slowly let it slip away late in the second period. Henrik Lundqvist was strong once again, and did all he could to keep the Rangers in this one, but his offense let him down big time.
Throughout the entire game this evening, the Rangers were only able to toss 17 total shots on goal. Given that Matt Murray was starting in his first career playoff game for the Penguins, the Rangers didn't do nearly enough to make him uncomfortable in the crease. Only generating 17 shots is downright embarrassing, especially on home ice with a chance to take control of the series.
During the early stages of this game though, the Rangers clearly held the advantage in the offensive zone. A little past the halfway mark of the first period, it appeared as if the Rangers were going to take the lead after Chris Kreider beat Matt Murray. However, the Penguins wound up challenging the goal for offsides, and after a short review, it was ruled that J.T. Miller just beat the puck over the blue line.
The no goal call clearly affected the Rangers, and they appeared to lose some of their jump as the first period came to a close. Thankfully, they were able to get another opportunity early on the second period, as Rick Nash broke in with a shorthanded opportunity. Kevin Klein made an excellent play to knock the puck loose in the defensive zone, and sprung Nash on a partial shorthanded breakaway.
Nash was able to motor his way into the zone, and beat Matt Murray with an absolute snipe just under the crossbar to make it a 1-0 game. After the sluggish end to the first period, Nash's goal brought life back into the building almost immediately. Throughout the remainder of the second period, the Rangers did an excellent job of clogging up the shooting lanes, and kept the Penguins mainly to the outside.
Although, late in the period, the Penguins went to work on the power play after Marc Staal was whistled down for hooking Carl Hagelin. The Penguins converted almost immediately after Phil Kessel's centering feed deflected off of Sidney Crosby's stick and in behind Henrik Lundqvist. As frustrating as it was to give up the late goal, the Rangers didn't do themselves any favors with the all of the penalties.
The Rangers were never able to rebound completely after giving up the late goal, and the Penguins put on an absolute clinic in the third period. Just 4:16 into the final frame, Matt Cullen was able to catch a fortunate bounce after Keith Yandle and Dan Boyle collided at the blue line. The puck continued to slide up ice, and Cullen snapped the puck under Lundqvist after breaking in all alone on a breakaway.
Following the go-ahead goal, the Penguins completely shut it down in the neutral zone, and gave the Rangers zeroing breathing room while entering the zone. The Rangers attempted to make one final push with the goaltender pulled, but they were unable to get anything after a rather miserable 6-on-5 opportunity. Kris Letang was able to ice the game with less than 15 seconds remaining, and gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead in the series.
The Rangers will have a scheduled day off on Wednesday, before they return to Madison Square Garden for a Game 4 matchup.