Recap: Pens Smoke Rangers in OT, 3-2.
Eric Staal's 2 goals almost meant 2 points. Almost.
The Rangers may have still been high from yesterday's sound beating of the Habs when they took the ice at MSG tonight. Only four minutes in, Eric Staal scored a one-handed goal off a pass from Kevin Hayes that, in a rational world, would lay that "lazy" narrative to rest. Speaking of rationality, AV, finally realizing that both Hayes and E. Staal might do better in the positions they actually like to play, put Hayes back at center and Staal on the wing. The result was a line that produced chances for all 60 minutes. Funny, that.
And briefly, life was good. Dan Girardi made a defensive play so effective that even he seemed stunned by it, and looked behind him for the puck he assumed must have gotten through. The Rangers had a few other nice chances, including Rick Nash doing what I can only describe as tap-dancing through the Pens' crease in pursuit of the puck. However, thanks to a tip-in from Matt Cullen, the first frame ended in a tie.
The Pens play the best second period in the league, while the Rangers ... well, it really depends which version of the team shows up. But it was Eric Staal -- again -- who scored first, just two minutes in, capitalizing on a Pittsburgh turnover courtesy of Jesper Fast and getting free for a perfect shot, high short side. Then Sidney Crosby made a bad backwards pass directly to Derick Brassard, and the good times really started rolling.
That roll ended when Henrik Lundqvist somehow forgot just how fast his former teammate can go, while Carl Hagelin remembered exactly what his former goaltender tends to do. Hagelin swooped in to pick up the King's clear and fired it on net; Hank blocked Hags' shot, but Phil Kessel buried the rebound so hard it pinballed around the pipes. The speed of the Hagelin/Kessel/Letang line caused the Blueshirts trouble all night, with 62 even smoking fellow speed demon Chris Kreider at one point. The second period ended tied as well, 2-2.
The third began with a wildly underwhelming Rangers power play, notable mostly for Hagelin's nostalgia-inducing PK. Fortunately, Hank made up for his earlier lapse with a couple of great stops: he denied a Hornqvist backhand, then robbed Cullen of a chance close in. Derrick Brassard went off for a high stick; the Rangers killed the penalty, but basically seemed to be doing that thing where they turtle even though they're not winning: "WE MUST PROTECT THIS TIE AT ALL COSTS!" (Notable exception: a one-timer from Fast off a pass from -- yep -- Eric Staal.) They were outshot 9-5 in the 3rd.
Brassard took another high stick penalty with 2 seconds left in regulation, giving the Pens the man advantage to start OT. A pretty fantastic penalty kill ended up being for nought; Crosby (shudder) shrugged off Mats Zuccarello and deflected the game winner past Lundqvist off a shot from Letang, just 30 seconds short of a shootout.
The Rangers have a nice little break before they play the Canes at home on Thursday. What should they spend that time thinking about? Anyone?