NEW YORK – The Penguins beat the Rangers 4-3 on Saturday and took away home-ice advantage from the team that won the President’s Trophy, thanks to two goals from Sidney Crosby and quality goaltending by Marc-Andre Fleury. The series is tied at a game apiece and heads to Pittsburgh for Game 3 on Monday night.
Here are three thoughts on the game:
1. Crosby is going to be OK
In Game 1, Crosby attempted three shots in nearly 20 minutes of play, and only one was on net. SI’s Allan Muir wrote on Friday that Crosby needed to stop passing the puck and trying for “pretty” shots, and Crosby did just that on Saturday night with a pair of tallies on three attempts.
Crosby, who had scored just one goal in his previous 19 playoff games, including the last nine against the Rangers, scored in the middle of the second period, and added another before the end of the frame. His first tally of the night came as he was falling down after Rangers’ rookie Kevin Hayes failed to clear the puck on a rebound.
The Rangers fans at The Garden didn’t seem to appreciate Crosby’s night, as a “CROSBY SUCKS” chant broke out midway through the third period during a stoppage in play.
Crosby did take hit in the third period and stayed down on the ice before skating back to the bench. He returned later in the period, and said after the game that he feels fine.
2. The Rangers needs some production from their power play unit
The Rangers’ power play unit has struggled in the first two games of this series. After converting just one of five power play opportunities in Game 1, the Rangers were just one for seven on Saturday.
The team’s second goal of the game did come on a man advantage, when Derick Brassard scored his second goal in as many games. The Rangers had another power play opportunity shortly after, but could not convert.
Many Rangers acknowledged the imbalance in the team’s power play opportunities and goals. Center Derek Stepan, who scored the first goal of the night for the Rangers, said, "We have a group of guys that have frustrated themselves and we just have to go out and get some good mo-jo going and find a way to pop a couple in and relax a little bit on it. We're got a lot of guys who are gripping the sick and there's no need for that, especially now. We need to get some positive energy on it, zip it around, and make some plays."
Rick Nash, who scored the third goal for New York, agreed and said he thought his teammates were “maybe over-passing a bit.”
This season, the Blueshirts ranked 21st in the league, converting just 16.8 percent of their chances. The Penguins had more success this season, cashing in on 19.3 percent, good for 10th. The disparity showed as the Penguins scored twice in just three chances. Brandon Sutter's goal and Chris Kunitz’s third-period tally that gave the Penguins a two-goal lead with just under ten minutes remaining came on the power play.
3. Penguins must use home ice to their advantage
The series will go to Pittsburgh on Monday, and after the team’s lack of offense in Game 1, the Penguins were pleased to split the series’ first two games at MSG.
Fleury said the team was confident after its “tough loss” on Thursday and emphasized how difficult it would have been to go back to Pittsburgh down two games to none.
We’ll see how much home-ice really means in this series. During the 2014 playoffs, the Penguins led the Rangers 3-1 in the Eastern Conference semifinals, before losing the final three games. In that series, the home team only won two of the contests.
With Fleury playing stalwart hockey, stopping 62 of 67 shots in the first two games and the offense finding a spark, the Penguins will have some extra motivation with the Consol Energy Center crowd behind them. It could be an unwelcome sight for Rangers’ goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who didn’t get much in the way of help from his teammates and will be looking to swing the momentum back before they can head home.