Observations from the Penguins' 3-0 loss to the Rangers:
First things first. Head coach Mike Sullivan had no update on defenseman Trevor Daley who did not record a shift after the 13:36 mark of the first period.
Daley appeared to be injured 10:24 into the game. Racing back to defend an offensive rush by the Rangers, he got tangled with Rangers right winger Jesper Fast and crashed into the Penguins' net, dislodging it. Daley appeared to make contact with the left post near his ribs or shoulder on the right side of his body.
With Daley sidelined, the five remaining defensemen had to double shift throughout the remainder of the game.
As far as the game goes, the Penguins had their chances. They just didn't finish. They hit a few posts and botched the occasional two-on-one rushes. Some of that is bad luck. Some of it is sloppy execution. Regardless of the reason, if they score on even one of those chances, it's a different game.
Give the Rangers credit. They are a disciplined team with a great goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist. They don't give up many goals and they converted their chances when they were available. But this game wasn't nearly as one-sided as the score would indicate.
-The Rangers took a 1-0 lead 8:34 into the game. Racing up the left wing, former Penguins left winger Tanner Glass fired an off-balance wrister on net. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was hugging the near post and sort of fell to his right while making the save. The puck deflected above the crease where right winger Kevin Hayes was able to drag it past sliding right winger Patric Hornqvist and an out-of-place Fleury for a goal. Glass and defenseman Keith Yandle got assists. FIre Jim Rutherford.
Following a scoreless second period, they made it a 2-0 game 4:21 into the third period. After defenseman Brian Dumoulin pinched in on a puck in the offensive zone, Rangers center Derek Stepan backhanded a loose puck off the Rangers' left half wall up to former Penguins center Dominic Moore who raced up the left wing boards creating a two-on-one with center Chris Kreider against defenseman Derrick Pouliot. As Pouliot took away the pass, Moore ripped a wrister by Fleury's glove hand on the near side. Stepan had the lone assist.
They secured the win by scoring an unassisted empty net goal with 1:31 left in regulation. After a point shot by center Sidney Crosby was blocked, Fast settled the puck, skated it up ice and air mailed a wrister from the neutral zone into the open cage.
As mentioned above, the Penguins had their chances. But they hit iron twice, including on a mini-breakaway by left winger Conor Sheary 2:28 into the second period which could have made it a 1-1 game.
They had two-on-ones which they failed to finish. With 9:21 left in regulation, the Penguins were down 2-0 and had a power play. Crosby snapped off a cross-ice pass from the right circle to right winger Phil Kessel positioned to the left of the crease. Kessel had a clean look at the net but fanned on the shot a bit and was denied by Lundqvist.
-During their recent hot streak, the Penguins were burying most of those chances. Tonight, they didn't.
-The absence of Daley seemed to tax the remaining defensemen as the game wore on. Dumoulin's pinch which led to Moore's goal was perhaps tied to that. Daley does so many things for the Penguins and there were a lot of minutes which had to be spread around in his absence.
-The Penguins just didn't get many second-chance rebounds. Hornqvist, as fine of a garbage goal scorer as you'll find, just didn't have that part of his game going tonight.
-With the Penguins' first line limited, it would have been nice to have a bigger contribution from the second line. Granted, having Matt Cullen at center instead of Evgeni Malkin is a huge drop off but with Kessel and left winger Carl Hagelin, there's enough talent for that line to create offense.
-Games like this are where the Penguins could really use a greater contribution from Kessel. He's good enough to create offense on his own. Yeah, he had six shots but he needs to finish. That is the primary - perhaps only - reason he is here.
-Right winger Bryan Rust did everything he could to create chances. He went in deep with the puck and tried to be creative. His effort was very evident tonight.
-Special teams were a non-factor. The Penguins were blanked on two power-play chances and generated five shots while the Rangers failed to get a shot on just one power-play chance.
-Beyond his strange play off the initial shot leading to Hayes' goal, Fleury was fine. He was clearly the second best goaltender in this game but he played adequately.
-We can't say he came up with any sort of highlight reel saves, but games like this make you appreciate what Lundqvist is. He's so steady. Despite a fairly heavy workload, he just always seemed to be in the right position and made most of his saves seem routine. He definitely got lucky with a few posts but he earned this win.
-The Rangers' defensive effort was even more impressive when you consider they played without all-everything defenseman Ryan McDonagh. He means so much to this team yet the Rangers found a way to limit a hot Penguins offense, particularly when ti came to second chance scoring opportunities.
-As is usually the case, the Rangers were opportunistic with their scoring.
-Perhaps Punxsutawney Phil's prediction of an early spring impacted Moore who usually only scores goals in the springtime against the Penguins during the postseason. His goal was very critical tonight.
-Dumoulin took the blame for his pinch which led to Moore's crucial goal:
“That was a tough read. I obviously wish I didn't pinch now looking back. I saw Sid backhanding. I thought the puck was going to come off a little bit harder, more at an angle, and it didn't. I was already headed there and I thought if I'm going to go, I've just got to try to go. Obviously, I wish I didn't do it and backed out to fight another day. That's on me.”
-Sullivan talked about Dumoulin's play on that goal:
“That's the decisions defensemen have to make. I think the parameters we try to give them is we don't want to get caught in between. So we're either in or or we're out. It's one or the other. We try not to be in between. There was a little hesitation I thought there in his decision making. With that hesitation, that's when you get caught in between. Brian, he's brought a lot to the table for us. He's a good defensemen. For the most part, he makes really good decisions. I think when you play the amount of minutes that he plays and you're in those circumstances all the time, the odd time that happens. Certainly we don't want it to happen on a continual basis. And it hasn't. My reaction to [Dumoulin] is that we like what he's bringing to the table. His overall game has been strong."
-Defenseman Kris Letang spoke about the Penguins' overall play:
"I think we had control of that game for the most part. We just couldn't buy a goal. It's tough when you play against a team like that. They have a lot of experience. They play well with the lead."
-Letang on the team's chances:
"Other than the fact that we didn't' score goals, would you change something in the game? [Reporter: 'Probably not.']. Exactly. Tell us that we need to score goals. We did score goals lately. But we can't get one [against the Rangers]. It's hard. And they're a team that they retreat when they get the lead and they jam the front of the net so it's hard to score goals. They block shots. Their goalie is an outstanding goalie. But I think for the most part, we had control of that game. We were playing well. We had the puck. We were shooting the puck. We out-chanced them. We out shot them. I think it's just a matter of finishing."
-Letang was asked if the Rangers are similar to the Devils in how they are tough when they have a lead:
"Yeah. It is. Especially against a goaltender like that. He's a really good goaltender. It's tough when you're trailing. But we stuck with it. We had tons of chances. It just didn't go in."
-Sullivan was asked about his team getting scoring chances:
"Some of them were quality, for sure. We had some of those shots where we had people in front and traffic and we had a couple of deflection opportunities. We had a couple of rebound chances inside the dots. For me, those are high quality chances. We had a two-on-one opportunity. Those are high quality chances. Tonight, I just think it was a case where we didn't finish. Give them credit. They defend hard. But I thought for the most part it was a pretty close game."
-Dumoulin talked about hitting a post late in regulation:
“If you're hitting posts, that means you're close. I feel like I've never hit a post in my life and I've hit two the past couple of games. Obviously, I'll take a goal or something to go in. A bounce. But we were shooting the puck and we were creating rebounds. But they did a good job of clearing the net."
-Letang dismissed any suggestion execution was to blame, particularly with regards to hitting posts:
"The posts, you can't call it bad execution. You're not going to score six goals every night. It could have [gone] either way."
- Sullivan was asked if more is needed out of Kessel and if he was demoted to the third line for that reason during Saturday's 3-2 overtime win in Florida:
“Obviously when Phil scores, we're a better team. I don't know if you would call the adjustment we made in Florida a demotion. It was more of an adjustment to try to create a spark for our group. Obviously, we can't rely on just one line or one guy to generate our offense night in and night out. We've got to find ways to get more contributions throughout our lineup. When we've been winning here for this last little while, we found that. Tonight, I thought for the most part, it was a pretty even hockey game. I thought we generated a fair amount of scoring chances. Our power play had some really high quality scoring chances. We don't score. We hit a post. They score on a two-on-one. We get a two-on-one and we don't score. It's a real fine line, right? For me, my initial reaction to the game is we didn't quite execute I think the way we have the last little while here. But for the most part, it was a lot closer game than the score indicated."
-Crosby talked about Daley's absence:
"He's a really good puck mover. A good skater. He can skate us out of trouble in a hurry. So I think he brings that. He played some power play too and been really good there. He brings a lot of different things but I thought considering we had five [defensemen] for a good chunk of the game, I thought they handled it well. It wasn't easy. We'll have to have somebody step in there and make up for that loss."
-Letang on Daley's absence:
"You're playing [five defensemen]. You're kind of getting double shifted. So you have to stay short. So you have to manage when you try to go on the offense, especially when you're already down a guy and you need a goal."
-Sullivan on Daley's absence:
"It's a tough loss because he logs a lot of minutes for us. He plays in a lot of offensive situations. His mobility in helping us get out of our end zone and then it places more of a burden on the five guys that are left. Any time you go down a defenseman that early in the game, it just puts that much more pressure on the five that are remaining as far as managing the minutes and trying to be effective in those circumstances."
-Dumoulin was asked if Daley's absence impacted things:
"A little bit but that's something you've got to fight through. That's just a mindset. They did a good job of cycling the puck down low on extended shifts and I thought as a defensive corps, we did a good job of trying to break out and limit their chances."
-Dumoulin on the Rangers' play:
“Yeah. They're a patient team and they wait to make mistakes and they capitalize on their opportunities. They've got a great goaltender that can steal some games for them. We weren't surprised that it was going to be a low scoring game. We've just got to get a goal and go from there.”
-The Penguins led in shots, 34-22.
-Kessel and Letang each led the game with six shots.
-The only Penguins skaters who did not record a shot on net were Daley (who was injured), Pouliot and Crosby (who had a seven-game scoring streak).
-Center Mats Zuccarello led the Rangers with four shots.
-Letang led the game with 27:19 of ice time.
-Defenseman Kevin Klein led the Rangers with 23:04 of ice time.
-The Penguins had a 27-25 lead in faceoffs (52 percent).
-Cullen was 9 for 16 (56 percent).
-Rangers center Derick Brassard was 11 for 16 (69 percent).
-Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle and Dan Girardi each led the game with five blocked shots.
-Left winger Scott Wilson led the Penguins with two blocked shots.
-This stat is astounding to us. The Rangers' last regular season shutout in Pittsburgh was Feb. 27, 1971. Goaltender Ed Giacomin made 26 saves in a 4-0 win.
-Their last regular season shutout of any kind against the Penguins was by Lundqvist in an 5-0 home win, Nov. 11, 2014. Lundqvist made 33 saves.
-Among active goaltenders, Lundqvist is tied for the most career shutouts against the Penguins with four. He shares the mark with Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo.
-The Penguins' last regulation loss at home was a 2-1 defeat by the Hurricanes Dec. 19, 2015.
-Crosby had point-scoring (10 games) and goal-scoring streaks (seven games) snapped. He also had a nine-game home goal-scoring streak snapped.
(Photo: Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)