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Penguins Knock Off Rangers 4-3...Struggle With Empty Net Again!

March 28, 2009, 12:50 PM ET [ Comments]

Post Game Update:

The Penguins looked good and bad on this day. Weird that they could dominate for stretches as well as be dominated for others. It seemed as if they controlled play for most of the first period, before falling apart during the final two minutes of the period and surrendering a 2 goal lead.

They did bounce back in the second and were able to take a 3-2 lead on Rusland Fedotenko's goal. Though they found themselves tied with the Rangers 3-3 going to the third period of play.

The third period is where things got very interesting. First of all, there was a knee on knee collision for Brooks Orpik. He definitely took the brunt of the blow, but was assessed a tripping penalty. It looks like Brooks had some damage to the knee with how he reacted, but he played on and seemed fine post game. Then there was the Colton Orr hit on Mark Eaton. Eaton, who was falling at the time, had his face bash off the lip of the dasher board. He did have a broken nose, but required multiple stitches. More on that in a moment.

The Penguins were given a 5:00 minute major power play to work with and were not able to come away with anything. In fact, they were lucky to come away with two points today, based on the fact that their power play went a putrid 0 for 9 on the day.

Sidney Crosby finally put the Penguins ahead to stay with a great individual effort. He took a pass from Ruslan Fedotenko and got in alone on Lundqvist before shooting a puck through him for the go ahead goal. The goal came on Crosby's 7th shot of the game.

The Penguins were able to kill the remaining time in the period, but looked like a Kangaroo circus with the empty net again. Evgeni Malkin, who can use every point he can get at this point, was the first guy to shoot one wide of the cage today. Then it was Sidney Crosby's turn...he hit the post. It was absolutely mind blowing that this team has put up 6 goals in two games against two of the best goaltenders in the league, but cannot cash on an empty net!

Anyway, the good news is that the Penguins picked up two huge Eastern Conference points, did not surrender the third point to New York and are currently sitting in a 4th place tie with Philadelphia. The Flyers do play this evening against the Islanders.

Now on to some specific thoughts on the game...

First of all, aside from a break down at the end of the first period, Marc Andre Fleury again looked great in net. He was tested often and was able to hold the Rangers at bay. I definitely feel that he would love to have those first two goals back.

Ruslan Fedotenko played his best game in weeks. I believe that it has helped him to be pushed down to third line duty for a couple of games. Maybe it relieved some pressure on him. He has combined with Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy very well. In fact, he looked good with whoever he happened to be on the ice with today. He made several great plays that turned into goals, the last one being a nice pass from along the boards to spring Sidney Crosby for the game winner.

"Feds just won his battle along the wall, and I was just able to pick up some speed through the neutral zone," said Sidney Crosby. "The pass was right on my stick, and I was able to split the D and get a pretty good shot away."

Speaking of Sidney Crosby, he was great today. He put 7 shots on goal and got that huge game winner. The goal gave him points in 11 straight games since returning from a groin injury. It is the second longest points streak of his career...the longest of which was 19 games. Crosby has definitely caught fire at the right time. What impressed me most about him today was the fact that he was shooting...a lot! He was getting the puck away quickly and with velocity. Hopefully this is something that we see a lot more of from him.

"He's our leader out there. He's a go to guy and he always wants those big goals and got one tonight," said Max Talbot about Crosby's goal.

Talbot also played one of his best games of the season. He scored the Penguins first goal on a nifty snap shot that picked Lundqvist's five hole.

"I beat the defenseman for a little break away...my idea was maybe...I saw the five hole...and that's where I shot," said Talbot of his goal.

Talbot did everything for the Penguins today. He contributed on the score sheet, won over 60% of his faceoffs and killed penalties. He really is a jack of all trades for this team. Great to see him hitting a bit of a stride right now, as he wasn't quite himself for chucks of this season.

It is very obvious why the Rangers like Sean Avery. He gets the opponent off of their game and just agitates on every shift. He was largely responsible for the Penguins break down at the end of the first period, as they seemed to be focused on hitting him, rather than playing the game. He tried his patently fake drop the gloves trick on Tyler Kennedy, but TK didn't let him slide...he all but jumped him and the two fought.

"We know he is a tough player and the only way to stop him or shut him up is by going with him. It was a great job by TK to step up and fight Avery," said Max Talbot of his teammate.

Talbot went on to compliment Avery:

"Hes still a pest out there...he still does his job pretty well and I think he is helping them right now."

I don't think that the hit that Colton Orr laid on Mark Eaton was an intent to injure, but I have seen enough of those types of plays to know that the correct call was made by the officials. Eaton was in a very vulnerable position by the boards and Orr finished his check anyway, taking more than two strides to get there.

Mark Eaton looked horrible after the game. His nose looked two sizes bigger than normal, though he claims it wasn't broken. He also had a bruise on his upper lip. The nose actually started bleeding a bit as we were talking with him. Let me be the first to tell you that it looked painful! Eaton would not comment on whether he felt the hit was clean or dirty, because he hadn't seen a replay.

Overall, the Penguins played a good game against a desperate opponent. The earned two huge points and got one step closer to clinching a playoff spot.

I will have more later...Come on Pitt Panthers!!!

Third Period:

The Penguins once again take a penalty immediately, killing the last :10 seconds of their own power play. This time it was Brooks Orpik. He was whistled for tripping, but hurt himself in the process. He is in the box, but he looks to be in some pain.

* * * * *

Brooks Orpik looks to be ok. The Penguins killed off his penalty and are back to even strength.

The Penguins with another SRO sell out today... 17,110 in the barn.

* * * * *

Mark Eaton was just cut after being hit by Colton Orr along the boards. Eaton was falling as Orr came in to finish his check and his face was driven into the dasher. Orr was assessed a 5 minute major for interference and a game misconduct.

As has been the case all day long, the Penguins immediately took a penalty of their own. Chris Kunitz was called for hooking Marc Staal, thus cutting the Penguins power play to 3 minutes.

* * * * *

The Penguins kept the puck in the Rangers zone for almost the entire 3:00 minutes, but were unable to beat Lundqvist. The good thing is that they began to shoot the puck. They made a concerted effort to get the puck to the net...hopefully that will pay off for them.

* * * * *

Bylsma just employed a line of Crosby, Malkin and Max Talbot. They were working the puck around down low, but were unable to get a great shot on net. Crosby took a late stick check to the mid-section from Brandon Dubinsky...he didn't look pleased.

* * * * *

Well, as I said earlier...Crosby looked as if he was going to get one this afternoon and he just did. He got in behind the defense after taking a feed from Ruslan Fedotenko and this time made no mistake. He fired a shot through Lundqvist to give the Penguins a 4-3 lead in this one.

4-3 Penguins...

* * * * *

The Penguins got themselves another shot on the power play. This time Nik Antropov went to the box...

Unfortunately, they were shut out with the extra man again. They really need to get that PP going...

* * * * *

I will be headed down to the rooms shortly for post game reaction...stay tuned for more later tonight...

Second Period:


* * * * *

Marc Andre Fleury is playing the puck a bit too much for my liking early in this period. It almost cost him once, as he and Rob Scuderi collided behind the net. The puck was picked up by the Rangers and almost turned in front with an empty cage.

* * * * *

Colton Orr and Eric Godard renewed their heated rivalry with a spirited fight moments ago. Usually there is a clear cut winner between these two, but this one appeared to be a draw...

* * * * *

Ruslan Fedotenko just broke his dry spell...scoring as he broke down the right wing. He almost had a breakaway, but had the puck bounce away from him. He continued up ice and Rob Scuderi got him the puck...he, Jordan Staal, and Scuderi broke in 3 on 1. Tank looked pass almost the entire time before shooting far post and beating Lundqvist.

3-2 Penguins...

* * * * *

Hal Gill just appeared to hurt himself. He got tangled up with Ryan Callahan and seemed to wince as he stayed on all fours for a minute. He got himself back into the play, finished his shift and went to the bench.

* * * * *

Wade Redden was just whistled for interference. He got a piece of Tyler Kennedy coming through the neutral zone.

Pens on the power play...

* * * * *

Penguins back in the box...Matt Cooke gets the whistle this time for holding the stick...

* * * * *

The Pk is doing its job...just about done with this kill.

Hal Gill has been back out there and looks like he is ok. Not sure if he just took a shot to a "bad area" and needed to catch his breath...though looking back, that is what it could have been.

* * * * *

The Penguins just got themselves another power play...Marc Staal was called for high sticking. Unfortunately, the Penguins immediately gave it back. Bill Guerin was called for interference off of the face-off.

* * * * *

Prior to the Staal penalty, Sidney Crosby had 3 huge scoring chances, but couldn't beat Lundqvist. You get the feeling that he will get one by him before the end of the day.

* * * * *

Nik Antropov did what he always does against the Penguins. He scored a huge goal to tie this one at 3. The puck came into the slot and into an area where Antro could make a spin move and bury the puck behind Fleury.


* * * * *

The Penguins will get their power play after all, as Paul Mara gets the whistle.

* * * * *

The Penguins are back on the power play again...this time Zherdev was called for tripping Jordan Staal. The lack of power play scoring today is unsettling. This is exactly the kind of thing that comes back to haunt you.

* * * * *

Well, the Penguins did get back to doing what they were doing and put together a pretty effective period. Unfortunately, they are tied going to the third period, instead of ahead.

They cannot say that they were not given their chances though, as the referees have called this one pretty tightly and they have had their fair share of power play opportunities. They have just refused to shoot the puck during those opportunities and it is unsettling. It is exactly the kind of thing that comes back to haunt a team. You have got to make your opportunities count...

They did limit the Rangers to 7 shots in the period and put up 11 of their own. We will see if they can keep that going in the third period.

The Penguins will have :10 seconds of power play time to utilize at the opening of the third period.

More as it happens...

First Period:

Sidney Crosby just made a slick cross ice pass to Chris Kunitz, who got off a nice one timer. The shot seemed to give Lundqvist a little bit of trouble and he gave up a rebound. Crosby got there and came close to flipping the puck off of Hank and in, but he got it under him. Puck was bouncing a bit and never actually got covered up, but the whistle came...a scrum followed...

* * * * *

Tyler Kennedy just made a very nice play using his speed to get in behind the defense. He got to a loose puck and got a pass through to Ruslan Fedotenko. Tank had to take it on the backhand, but still got a shot on net.

Moments later, Kennedy was coming through the neutral zone and ran into Sean Avery. He got his hands up a bit and Avery gave him the glove wiggle...showing that he was going to drop the mitts. Kennedy saw it and didn't give him a choice in the matter...tossing his and grabbing him.

Each serving 5 for fighting...

* * * * *

Jordan Staal, Pascal Dupuis and Ruslan Fedotenko have been great thus far. They are cycling the puck effectively down low, setting each other up in front of the net and producing scoring opportunities. They just had their best shift of the game...

* * * * *

Evgeni Malkin just drew a penalty, as he was cutting into the slot. He got a shot off, but was hooked in the process. Derek Morris was the guilty party... Pens on the power play...

* * * * *

The Penguins power play fizzled out, but the Penguins quickly got on the board as it ran out. Ruslan Fedotenko made a backhand pass coming up the right wing boards that sprung Max Talbot on a break away. He turned on the jets to get in behind the defense and made a quick move before firing a snap shot between Hank's legs. Lundqvist immediately stared to the heavens and fell backwards onto his back in the crease. Clearly disappointed in himself.

1-0 Penguins...

* * * * *

Evgeni Malkin gets his first point of the day on a Matt Cooke goal. Cooke worked his tail off for it too. He made a pass to Geno coming through the neutral zone. Malkin carried the puck across the blue line and hit Max Talbot going to the net. Talbot deflected the puck on net even though he was closely covered. The rebound came into the slot where Cooke pounced on it, getting two cracks at it before flipping the second shot over Lundqvist and into the net.

2-0 Penguins...

* * * * *

The Rangers just had their best scoring chances of the game and turned them into a power play opportunity. Though Marc Andre Fleury was up to the task, Evgeni Malkin took a cross checking penalty after Fleury covered a loose puck.

* * * * *

Rob Scuderi came very close to another own goal. He went to one knee to block a pass that was being thrown in to the goal mouth. It hit his stick and deflected right back on Fleury, who had to be sharp to keep it out of the net.

* * * * *

Ryan Callahan just fired a shot past Marc Andre Fleury from the left face-off circle. Scott Gomez won the face-off and Sean Avery collected the puck, flipping it to Callahan, who immediately fired his wrist shot to the far post and past Fleury.

2-1 Penguins...

* * * * *

Not only did the Penguins give up one late goal, they gave up two. Brandon Dubinsky just scored on a wraparound that Fleury should have had. It wasn't a great goal to allow with 4.4 seconds remaining in the period.

The Penguins just let a pretty decent 15 minutes of hockey get away from them. Though they are being outshot 15-9, they were doing a pretty decent job of staying in control of this game. They were limiting the Rangers opportunities to shots from the perimeter, all the while getting their own chances. That all changed when after Malkin's cross checking penalty.

The Rangers took some momentum away from the Penguins and began to chip away at the lead. They quickly scored their two goals and we have a new hockey game.

Tyler Kennedy and Max Talbot have had a pretty impressive start to this game. Both have been flying all over the ice and creating offensive chances.

The Penguins need to get back to what they were doing earlier in the period...at one point they were leading in shots 8-5 and were controlling play in all zones. It looked like they started to go after Sean Avery a bit too much and got into a couple of battles that they really didn't have too, which turned the tide of the game...

More as it happens...


To call the two points that are on the line here at Mellon Arena this afternoon "huge" might be a drastic understatement. With a win, the Penguins could leap over Carolina and tie the Philadelphia Flyers for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers could leapfrog the Penguins and move into a tie for fifth place in the Conference if they are able to pull off a victory.

When you are playing in a conference where 7 points separate 4th and 9th place, each game takes on added significance. It has been a blast watching the teams jump over each other on an almost daily basis. There is little room for error and only 1 team in the East has mathematically clinched a playoff spot as of today. The top three are pretty much set, but four through eight really look as if they are going to come down to the wire with most teams having 7 or 8 games remaining.

Besides the playoff chase for these two teams, there are some other story lines swirling around this afternoon affair. Evgeni Malkin's season long grip on the scoring lead has loosened a bit with Alex Ovechkin's 4 points evening against Tampa Bay last night. Malkin now only leads the hard charging Ovechkin by 6 points. The fact that Malkin's line has been ice cold isn't helping his cause either. Hopefully the tinkering that Dan Blysma has been doing will get that group back on track.

Today marks the sixth and final meeting between these two teams on the season. The Penguins have gone 2-1-2 against the Rangers this year, with most of their success against them coming in the last two games.

Rangers coach John Tortorella worked his team very hard in practice yesterday afternoon at the Penguins practice facility. He was happy with his team's effort against the Atlanta Thrashers in their last game. The boy in Red, White and Blue will be ready this afternoon, which doesn't bode well for the Penguins. Especially when you consider that the Penguins have been horrible in afternoon games this season...the silver lining in that is that they did not choose to wear their powder blue throwbacks today. That would have equated to a double Whammy for the boys in Black and Vegas Gold.

The Penguins are 97-104-29 all-time versus the Rangers, including a 53-45-16 mark at Mellon Arena and have done very well against the Rangers at home as of late, going 9-0-2 in their last 11 home games against them. It is also worth noting that the home team has won all five games this season.

Here's hoping that both of these teams have come to play this afternoon, as it has the potential to be a very entertaining late season game between two division rivals.

Game Notes:

Sidney Crosby has 34 points (11G-23A) in 27 career games against he Rangers, while Sergei Gonchar has notched 44 points (12G-32A) in 61 games.

Crosby leads all Penguins with six points (2G-4A) in five games against New York this season.

The newly acquired Nik Antropov leads all Rangers players with 8 points (4G-4A) against the Penguins this season in four games.

Marc Andre Fleury, who will get the start today, is 11-8-5 with a 2.71 goals-against average in 24 appearances versus the Rangers.

The Penguins will play their next three home games versus Atlantic Division opponents beginning today versus the Rangers. The Penguins are 12-4-5 with a 7-1-1 record at home versus divisional opponents. The Penguins will wrap up their franchise record eight-game home stand Wednesday, Apr. 1 versus the New Jersey Devils. The Penguins are 4-1-1 on their current home stand.

The Penguins are in the midst of their best March since the 2006-07 season (12-3-2). The Penguins have compiled a 9-1-2 record with 18 points, moving them into sixth place in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

The Penguins have compiled a 20-10-4 record since Jan.8, marking the third consecutive season of 20-plus second half wins. The Penguins finished the 2007-08 campaign with a 24-11-6 mark on their way to a second place finish in the Eastern Conference and appearance in the Stanley Cup Final. The Penguins also skated to the playoffs with a 29-8-4 record during the 2006-07 season.





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