Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Final Score: Penguins 2, Rangers 0
After a thrilling OT win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday night, the Rangers couldn't start another winning streak tonight as they were shutout by a score of 2-0 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Henrik Lundqvist made 29 saves and did all he could to keep the Rangers in the game, but it wasn't enough as the Rangers simply did nothing on offense and were unable to score.
As always, there were a number of questionable penalty calls that went against the Rangers while the referees somehow conveniently missed several calls that should've gone against Pittsburgh. I'm sure that's just a coincidence that that happens every time the Rangers play in this building, though, right? I'm not really going to delve too much into the officiating considering the team did nothing offensively, but this was one of those games where it was obvious early on that the Rangers would have to overcome the Penguins and the refs in order to win.
Click below to read more on the game.
I thought the Rangers made Marc-Andre Fleury look good, but then again I'm someone who has always thought that Fleury is a very overrated goaltender. His two "spectacular" glove saves, as Sam Rosen called them, were cases where the Rangers shot the puck directly into his glove that Fleury then snapped back to flash for the audience. Fleury was good, but the Rangers really didn't have any sustained offensive pressure and didn't force Fleury to make any fantastic saves. Marc Staal himself said after the game that Fleury "was good but he didn't have to be great," which I think is a fair assessment. Can't really put it much better than that.
For the most part, I thought every forward for the Rangers was invisible tonight. There were a few good shifts that mostly came from the Artem Anisimov-Derek Stepan-Marian Gaborik line, but beyond that nobody really did anything. From the first period you could just tell the Rangers really didn't have it today. Whatever the reason is, they just looked tired and their play was very similar to how they played against Blackhawks last week. I thought they were much better against the Blue Jackets on Sunday night and simply just had trouble scoring. But as John Tortorella has said time and time again, the Rangers just don't really have enough offensive talent to overcome games where they play lazy, look tired and get off to a slow start. That was the case against the Blackhawks and it was the same again tonight against the Penguins.
Some other notes:
Michael Del Zotto's turnover in the second period is what led to a breakaway goal scored by Evgeni Malkin, and John Tortorella pulled no punches when he called it a "dumb play" after the game. Del Zotto attempted to lazily chip the puck in deep and got caught up ice when Malkin blew by him and went the other way. It was really a poor play by Del Zotto, and one he can't afford to make with a player as dangerous as Malkin on the ice. Del Zotto has limited those types of mistakes this year, but considering how important he's become to this team while getting 25 minutes a night, he really can't afford those bonehead plays. It's only one game, though, and it's hard to nitpick considering how steady Del Zotto has been all year long.
The Rangers cut down to four defensemen (Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and Michael Del Zotto) in the third period after John Tortorella clearly grew frustrated with the play of Steve Eminger and Anton Stralman. Stralman took the penalty that led to the Penguins' second goal and he never saw the ice again after that. Eminger finished with 8:18 TOI and Stralman with 9:19. Stu Bickel got one shift on defense in the game late in the third period, but he got confused and actually went out and started playing as a forward, where he had been playing the last several games. The coaching staff was clearly not happy with him when he came back to the bench. Bickel finished the game with only 3:57 TOI in the game.
As Andrew Gross pointed out, the Rangers went 0 for 3 on the power play tonight and are now 0 for 12 over their last three games after a four game stretch in which they went 5 for 13. The power play is just killing the Rangers and if they had even an average power play I have to believe the outcome of games like these would be totally different.
The Penguins only outshot the Rangers 31-27 in the game, but a majority of the Penguins' shots came in spurts where they had the puck in the Rangers' zone and seemingly were able to do whatever they wanted. There was one stretch in the first period where Ryan McDonagh was caught on the ice for over three minutes because he couldn't get to the bench to make a change, and the Rangers were forced to spend their timeout when the team iced the puck.
Don't be surprised to see some lineup changes when the Rangers suit up for their next game against the Islanders on Friday night. Ruslan Fedotenko was a healthy scratch tonight, but I would be shocked if he isn't in the lineup on Friday. I also think there's a chance John Tortorella may opt to scratch Steve Eminger and use Stu Bickel back on the third d-pairing. Eminger has looked pretty bad since he's come back from his shoulder injury.
You can read the boxscore to the game here.
More to come tomorrow, when the Rangers return to practice and begin preparing for their showdown with the Islanders on Friday night.