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Penguins at Rangers - 03-15-12

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

PREGAME

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-Hey, guess where we are:

-No, not quite:

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(Best show ever.)

-We made the trip up to New York for one of the biggest Penguins-Rangers regular season games ever. Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang are back and the Penguins are breathing down the Rangers' necks. It might be the biggest Penguins-Rangers regular season contest since:

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-HBO is here:

-Madison Square Garden is in the midst of major renovations. There is a ton of scaffolding all around the building:

-You know it's a big-time arena when it has its own sugar:

-Plenty of these around Manhattan:

-A few friendlies:

-And this Flyers fan is a little lost:

-It's no Market Square... but... Times Square aint' too shabby:

-We give this guy credit for being orginal:

-We ventured to the NHL's evil corporate lair to infiltrate Gary Bettman's domain but had no luck:

-So, instead we went into the NHL Store:

-And bought a California Golden Seals and Hartford Whalers puck:

-The ice:

(Repairs were being made to the protective netting.)

NOTE: The wireless situation is less than ideal in this building. Our normal pregame photos will take a while to punch in. Our apologies.

-We've finally got a signal. Their Staal:

-Your Staal:

-Brian Leetch:

-If you have a Blair Betts jersey, you're a legit fan:

-Mark Messier:

-The always rare Brendan Shanahan/Wayne Gretkzy combo:

-Worst human ever Adams Graves:

-Wow. Jan Erixon:

-Oof. Sean Avery WITH a jersey foul:

-A complicated relationship:

-Jersey Foul of the Night: Teemu Selanne Ducks:

-Former Penguins/Rangers forward Alex Kovalev:

-This is a really weird place. There are a lot of narrow tunnels in the upper concourse:

-As we said earlier, there are plenty of friendlies around:

-Evgeni Malkin:

-If you wear a Matt Cooke jersey on the road, you have some guts:

-Mario Lemieux:

-Dont' forget this man's comeback tonight:

-Jerseys of the Night: Who else would it be?

-Warm ups:

-The Penguins starters are Pacal Dupuis, Jordan Stall, Steve Sullivan, Zbynek Michalek, Brooks Orpik and Marc-Andre Fleury.

-Their scratches are Dustin Jeffrey, Brent Johnson, Ben Lovejoy, Richard Park and Eric Tangradi.

-The Rangers' starters are Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Derek Stepan, Stu Bickel, Marc Staal and Martin Biron.

-Their scratches are Ryan Callahan, Michael Del Zotto, Chad Kolarik, Henrik Lundqvist, John Scott and Jeff Woywitka.

-With Lundqvist scratched, the Rangers recalled former Penguins prospect Chad Johnson.

-The national anthem:

FIRST PERIOD

18:38: Marian Gaborik skates down the right wing, tries to hold off the stick check of Zbynek Michalek

17:59: Crosby takes the ice ofr the first time to boos. Welcome back Crosby. He's on with Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke.

17:06: Welcome back Crosby. After some hard fowk in the left wing corner by Kennedy, Cooke snaps off a wrister from the slot. Biron makes the initial save. Cooke jabs at the rebound. It hops up in the air, hits off Biron and blops into the cage. First shift and Crosby's on the ice for the goal. Kennedy gets the only assist. He created that with some hard work. No assist for Crosby. Penguins 1-0.

15:05: ARGH... Gaborik flies up up the ice on a two-one-one with Carl Hagelin in the slot against Letang. Letang applies some light pressure to Gaborik who flips a saucer pass to the slot. Hagelin tries to the settle the puck but can and jabs it wide. He has to bury that.

14:33: Deryk Engelland whips a wrister from the right point. Biron fends it off.

14:16: Crosby cycles the puck behind the New York net and draws a penalty sort of. Marc Staal tries to engage Crosby but runs over Matt Cooke. That's two minutes for interference. The new power play of Crosby, James Neal, Evgeni Malkin, Letang and Chris Kunitz takes the ice. Letang and Crosby work the points.

14:08: Malkin booms a one-timer from the left circle. Biron fights it off.

13:41: Crosby takes a pass from Malkin at the top of the slot and chops a slapper on net. Biron eats it up despite traffic.

12:16: The power play expires. The Penguins controlled the puck but couldn't generate many chances.

11:54: Gaborik sneaks up the right wing and snaps off a wrister which hits something deflects out of play.

11:14: Michalek winds up and chops a slapper from the right point which deflects away.

10:48: Dan Bylsma is already tinkering with his lines. He has Jordan Staal on with Craig Adams and Arron Asham.

10:02: Malkin is dropped with a big hit behind the Rangers' net by Dan Girardi.

9:45: The Rangers are starting to get physical. Malkin is blasted bhind the Penguins' cage by Brian Boyle

9:32: Boyle tries to skate back up ice in transition. Malkin has him lined up and misses completely catching nothing but boards. He went low on him there. Thankfully he missed.

9:26: A scrum develops in the left wing boards of the Rangers' zone with Malkin in the middle of it. Prust ends up with a minor for roughing. Malkin, Neal, Kunitz, Crosby and Letang take the ice.

9:12: Malkin fires a slapper from the left circle.  Biron snags it.

9:06: Malkin booms a slapper from the right circle. Biron eats it up.

8:21: Letang winds up and chops a one-timer form the left circle. Biron shrugs it off and deflects the puck out of play.

8:06: Martin taps a pass from the top of the slot to Malkin in the left circle. Malkin chops a one timer off the mark.

7:26: The Penguins' power play is killed. 0 for 2 with the new configuration.

7:20: Neal chops a slapper from the left circle. Prust blocks it and hobbles a bit.

6:24: The Penguins get sloppy in thir own zone and pay the price. Gaborik shrugs off some physical play from Orpik and plays the puck from the left of the cage to the crease. Hagelin has seemingly the entire crease to operate in and is able to snap off a wrister over the left leg of a sprawling Fleury. Just a breakdown by the Penguins new shutdown pairing of Michalek and Orpik there. Richards and Gaborik get assists. The "LET'S GO RANGERS!" song is played. Penguins 1, Rangers 1.

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3:47: After a few stagnant minutes, Bickel drops Cooke at the Penguins' right point with a high hit. The Penguins protest but no dice.

2:41: Staal swipes a wrister from the left wing corner. Biron steers it away.

1:32: The Rangers will get their first power play late in the period. Orpik trips up Hagelin in the neutral zone. Tough time to take a penalty, especially for one of the team's top penalty killers. Adams, Jordan Staal, Michalek and Martin take the ice.

0:45: Richards chops a slapper from the right point. Martin blocks it.

0:00: End of period. Penguins 1, Rangers 1.

FIRST INTERMISSION

-The Penguins had a slight advantage in play that period, but the Rangers made a really strong push in the second half. The Penguins had the bulk of scoring chance sin teh first 10 minute or so, but couldn't bury them. The Rangers seemed to compensate for that by being physical. A few big hits seemed to knock the Penguins off their game.

-The new power play doesn't look all that comfortable. The control the puck well and pass it fine, but no one seemed ready to shoot it.

-So far so good for Crosby. He was darting up and down the ice and was engaged pretty well in the flow of play. He even took a few bumps. He's just not going to be the Crosby we're used to while' he's playing with Cooke and Kennedy. He had 4:56 of ice time on five shifts, one shot and was 5 for 8 in faceoffs (63 percent).

-Letang looks a little rusty. He didn't exactly make a great play on the two-on-one but for the most part, he was pretty responsible. He had 8:07 of ice time on nine shifts and was credited with two hits.

-The only line doing anything offensively for the Rangers is the Hagelin-Gaborik-Richards trio.

-The Penguins have an 11-6 lead in shots.

-Cooke leads the game with three.

-Dubinsky and Eminger each lead the Rangers with two.

-The Penguins have an 11-9 edge in faceoffs (55 percent).

-Crosby is 5 for 8 (63 percent).

-Boyle is 5 for 11 (45 percent).

-Michalek and Girardi each lead the game with two blocked shots.

SECOND PERIOD

20:00: The Rangers will have 28 seconds of power play time on fresh ice.

19:32: The power play expires. New York did little with that chance.

18:41: The Penguins get the forecheck going and create offense. Neal hassles McDonagh into a turnover on the right wing of the offensive zone. Neal settles the puck, moves in towards the net and deals a pass to a wide open Malkin above the blue paint. Malkin takes the pas on his forehand, goes to the backand an is able to clunk the puck behind the left leg of Biron. What a play by Neal. He gets the only assist. Penguisn fans cheer some more. A "GEE-NOOO!" chant starts. Penguins 2-1.

18:36: Crosby lines up for a neutral zone faceoff on the wing of Staal. Sullivan mans the other wing.

17:15: The third line strikes again sans Crosby. In transition, Kennedy deals a pass to Staal who leads it through the neutral zone. He moves it to Kennedy on the right wing. Kennedy is able to distribute the pass to Cooke in the crease who taps the shot by the right leg of a  helpless Biron. What a series of passing. Kennedy and Staal get assists. Penguins 3-1.

14:50: Bylsma is using the Michel Therrien memorial bingo ball/line combination machine. Dupuis is on with Crosby and Sullivan.

13:14: Adams rattles Steve Eminger with a solid hit into the left wing corner boards of the Rangers' zone.

12:11: Martin booms a slapper from the left point. Biron punches it away.

9:44: Gaborik sweeps a wriser from the right wing. Martin goes stick on puck and forces the shot wide to the far side.

9:18: Gaborik takes a pass in the left circle and has a point-blank one-timer chance. He guns his shot to the far side but is ROBBED by Fleury.

7:59: Prust winds up and cranks a slapper from the left wing off the cross bar. Whew.

7:32: Letang snaps off a wrister from the left point which hits the leg of former teammate Ruslan Fedotenko leg and skids in on net.

5:28: The Rangers' top line abuses the Penguins' top defensive pairing once again. With Michalek kind of lost in space in the left wing corner, Richards controls a pass on the left wing boards and snaps off a backhanded pass to Gaborik. Gaborik takes the pass, draws Orpik in and rips a wrister which clunks off the underside of Fleury's blocker and into the cage. What a shot. Michalek and Orpik just aren't getting it done against this line. Richards and Hagelin get assists. "LET'S GO RANGERS!" is played. Penguins 3-2.

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2:36: Eminger winds up and chops a slapper from the left pin. It hits somethin gin front and deflects wide.

2:05: After a strong shift by the Rangers, the Penguins ice the puck then call a time out to get a breather.

1:05: A late gift for the Penguins. Bickel swings his stick wildly in the right wing corner while battling with Sullivan and gets Staal in the face. Staal is cut. That's a "four minuter." Malkin, Letang, Crosby, Neal and Kunitz take the ice.

0:38: Letang strikes a slapper from the right point. it hit hits something fonrot. Kunitz jabs at the rebound and pokes it wide.

0:22: And things get evened up as Kunitz is called slashing against Girardi. Four on four for two minutes.

0:00: End of period. Penguins 3, Rangers 2.

SECOND INTERMISSION

-That was kind of like a copy of the second period. The Penguins controlled things early on then had to kind of hang on as the period wore on.

-The Penguins did a a pretty good job for the most part of keeping things in the Rangers' zone. It didn't necesarily lead to a ton of scoring chances but Bylsma likes to keep the heat up in the offensive zone.

-This Richards-Gaborik-Hagelin line has been ripping things up for a few games now, but the Michalek and Orpik just can't seem to get a handle

-Fleury has been sharp. He's had to steal a few goals.

-Biron has been fairly effective. He could have stolen a goal or two but he has given his team a chance to win.

-Crosby wasn't all that noticeable in the second period. He now has 11:23 of ice time on 12 shifts, one shot and is 9 for 17 in faceoffs (53 percent).

-Letang hasn't been noticeable either but that's probably a good thing given his position. He has 15:58 of ice time on 17 shifts and one shot.

-The Penguins lead in shots, 23-18.

-Cooke and Malkin each lead the game with five.

-Dubinsky and Hagelin each lead the Rangers with four.

-The Rangers have a 22-21 edge in faceoffs (51 percent).

-Boyle is 9 for 15 (60 percent).

-Crosby is 9 for 17 (53 percent).

-Michalek leads the game with three blocked shots.

-Girardi and Marc Staal each lead the Rangers with two.

THIRD PERIOD

19:37: Richards zips into the offensive zone and chops a shot on net from the left wing. Fleury kicks out his left foot to make the save.

18:42: Letang fumbles a puck at the right point of the offensive zone. Gaborik is all over it. Before he can claim the puck and create a potential breakaway, Letang dives back and chops it away THEN trips up Gaborik. Legal play. Fans chant obscenities, but it's legal.

18:22: The Kunitz minor expires. The Penguins still have a five on four advantage.

17:19: Crosby feeds a pass from the right point to Letang at the left  half wall. Letang booms a one-timer which hit something in front.

17:07: The rangers blocking like they usually. Neal snaps off a wrister from above the left circle. Boyle sacrifices his body and pays the price. He hobbles after blocking the shot.

16:59: Welcome. Back. Crosby. he controls the puck behind the net, fends off a check from Marc Staal and pushes a one-handed pass to Kunitz in the left circle. Kunitz snaps off a wrister which beats Biron on the short side. What a shot. What an effort by Crosby. It's his first assist of the game and it comes on the power play. Neal gets the secondary assist. Penguins 4-2.

15:02: After a scramble in front of hte net with Fleury dead to rights, Bickel booms a slapper from the left point wide to the far side.

12:25: Game. Set. Match. A slapper by Martin from the top of the point is blocked. The rebound hops to Letang at the left point. Letang just golfs a one-timer on net. Biron allows a cruddy rebound to the right of the crease. Dupuis is right there and chips it by the glove of a sprawling Dupuis. That was a good hop if you've ever seen one. It's Dupuis' 19th goal of the season, one short of his career high. Letang and Martin get assists. Penguins 5-2.

10:16: Richards lifts a shot from the left wing. Fleury battles it away.

9:06: Kennedy takes a pass from Jordan Staal on the right wing and rips a wrister on net. Biron kicks it out.

8:09:  Malkin goes wide on the right wing and backhands a shot on net. Biron steers it away as Neal crashes in.

7:20: The great Joe Vitale is still flying aroudn and jbas

7:08: Gaborik chops a backhander on net from the slot. Fleury bodies it away.

6:35: John Mitchell snaps off a rister from the left circle. Letang blocks it and is hobbled a bit.

6:08: After a turnover by the Penguins in their own zone, Fleury ROBS Zuccarello and Mitchell in tight. Penguins fans offer "FLERRR-EEEE! FLERRRR-EEEE!" chants.

3:20: Crosby takes the ice. He has 15:12 of ice time to this point.

2:19: A wrister by Gaborik from the right point if blocked by Letang.

1:42: Engelland snaps off a wrister from the left wing wide to the near side.

0:34: A pretty solid good "LET'S GO PENS!" chant perseveres through boos.

0:00: End of game. Penguins 5, Rangers 2.

POSTGAME

-So... uh... wow. That's what a healthy Penguins team looks like? Pretty impressive and scary at the same time. This is the best team in the NHL right now and it just added Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang.

-Crosby look good but hardly spectacular. And that as kind of what you had to expect out of him. He wasn't going to light the world on fire the way he did back in November in his comeback game against the Islanders. The Penguins were going to limit his minutes and ease him back. And considering they had a lead most of the game, they were in a position to really rest him as the game wore on. His return went perfectly in just about every way.

-As far as his game, he was very engaged in the play. He was cycling like the classic Crosby down low, fending off checkers and spinning in and out of checks along the boards while dangling the puck. His set up for Chris Kunitz was a play Crosby has made countless times in his career.

-Crosby bounced between the second and third line most of the game and even played a little wing to Jordan Staal's center. After the game, Dan Bylsma expressed satisfaction with how Crosby with Staal and suggested he might use that some more in the future.

-In all, Crosby had 16:00 of ice time on 18 shifts, one shot, one blocked shot and was 11 for 20 in faceoffs (52 percent).

-Kris Letang looked sharp. We put little weight in plus/minus but he was a plus-five. That's pretty darn good. Overall, he was just typical Letang. Engaged in all facets of the game in all three zones. He logged a lot of time on the power play and had a little on the penalty kill. He ended up leding the team in ice time with 24:22 on 21 shifts. He also had two shots and two blocked shots.

-The power play looked a little akward with its new setup. There seemed to be a feeling out process with Crosby in there instead of Sullivan. They managed to pick up one goal, but there were times were things Things just looked uncomfortable.

-Matt Cooke was pretty big tonight. He chipped in two goal and worked some tough minutes in the third period hold the lead. This might have been his best game of the season.

-The "shut-down" pairing of Zbynek Michalek and Brooks Orpik didn't look all that sharp against the Rangers' top line of Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin. But in all fairness, that line has been tearing it up as of late.

-Paul Martin was a plus-3. Just saying.

-Tyler Kennedy had one of his best games of the season. It might have been his best effort since December. He was very active in all three zones and like Cooke, played a big role in the defensive game in the third period.

-The first line of Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz and James Neal seemed to draw a lot of assignments against the Rangers' shutdown defensive pairing of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi but they still managed to scrape out a goal.

-Marc-Andre Fleury was big in this game. The Rangers put on some late rushes in the first and second periods and he held them off. And he came up with two big saves againts Mats Zuccarello and John Mitchell with roughly seven minutes left to secure the win.

-Not to be a killjoy, but they didn't get the Rangers at their best. First, Henrik Lundqvist, the potential Hart Trophy winner was out. So was Ryan Callahan and Michael Del Zotto. Not that the Penguins are going to feel pity for anyone else's injuries.

Some highlights from Bylsma's media availability after the game:

On Crosby:
"Getting him in the game, playing him regularly, playing him on the power play as well worked out pretty well. Getting him in different situations. He played four on four as well at the end of the second. I though it was a pretty good start."
On moving Crosby on different lines:
"We warned him, warned Jordan as well about the possibility of playing with Sid and him moving around depending on the situation. We stuck mostly with (Kunitz, Malkin and Neal), that line stuck together for most of the time. There was a couple of times we moved away from that."
On which lines he liked with Crosby:
"I’d like to keep seeing (Staal) with (Crosby) for a little bit. He played the wing for a few shifts there with (Staal) down low. Such a strong guy down low can create turnovers and go the other way. And it’s a little bit different situation for Sid to try to get loose far down the ice as opposed to being down low and starting down low. I liked seeing that and (want to) continue to see that."
On Crosby's role on the power play:
"The power play is at its best when I think there’s different looks out there. With Sid taking a draw, he ends up on a different spot on the ice if it’s the left dot or the right dot. I think it makes it extremely tough to know what to expect from our power play when they’re in those positions. That movement, I like seeing it. We just got to make sure we’ve got a guy who’s going to shoot it into the net too with those guys. I like the movement. I liked what we saw out there."
On Letang's performance:
"Plus-5. That’s pretty remarkable. He’s strong in so many areas of the game, both offensively and defensively. Putting him back in there with Paul Martin immediately adds another element to how we can defend and how we can move the puck as well."
On the importance of the win and the division/conference lead:
"We’ve had experience winning playoff series playing at the road time. We’ve won them as a home team. We want to get first in the division. It’s not something new. It’s not something we dreamed up three weeks ago. We wanted that to be the case. We’ve been a long ways away at times. We’ve put this (streak) together. We’ve beat (the Rangers) twice and we’re in a situation were we’re still are looking at the Rangers ahead of us and want to catch them for the division."
Was Fleury overlooked again? That seems to be happening all season:
"His whole season? I think his whole career. That was his 38th win tonight. It’s a 5-2 game but he makes a couple realy big saves. He makes an unbelievable save with seven minutes left in the third. It’s going to get overlook but it shouldn’t."

The Penguins had a 32-31 lead in shots.

-Malkin led the game with eight.

-Richards and Mitchell each led the Rangers with five.

-Letang led the game with 24:22 of ice time.

-Gaborik led the Rangers with 22:29.

-The Rangers had a 34-31 edge in faceoffs (52 percent).

-Boyle was 12 for 19 (63 percent).

-Crosby was 11 for 21 (52 percent).

-Michalek led the game with four blocked shots.

-Girardi and Marc Staal each led the Rangers with two.

-The Penguins now have 1,499 wins in franchise history. One more and they become the 11th NHL franchise with 1,500.

-Jordan Staal now has a career-best nine-game scoring streak.

-Orpik tied Bob Errey for eighth-most games played in franchise history with 572.

-Kennedy moved past Dave Hannan for 54th place on the franchise's all-time scoring list. Both players have 148 points but Kennedy (65) has more goals than Hannan (60).

-Neal now has 73 points. Five more and he will tie Michel Ouellet for 100th place with 80.

-Fleury now has 222 career wins. Four more and he'll tie Tom Barrasso's franchise record of 226.

-Game summary.

-Event summary.

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