-First things first,
-We have a hard time seeing this being an offensive explosion tonight. The Penguins as you well know, are limping along here with several AHL players. And the Rangers are struggling on offense. This has 3-1 with an empty net goal written all over it.
-In an informal conversation, the great Joe Vitale expressed some enjoyment in playing as a right wing on the third line. It allows him to really use his speed a little bit more. Additionally, he admitted it adds to his repertoire as a pending unrestricted free agent this offseason.
-The left winger on that line is Chris Conner and he's been a pretty steady contributor the past week or so with points in his past three games. Conner gets a lot of grief but over the course of the season, he's been on of the most consistent players on that line.
-With the recent round of call-ups, there are a few more updates to the team's all-time roster numbers.
-Brian Dumoulin - No. 8 - Val Fonteyne, Jim Wiley, Rick Kehoe, Hartland Monahan, Dave Schultz, Mike Meeker, Bob Stewart, Dave Burrows, Randy Boyd, Tom O’Regan, Petteri Lehto, Terry Ruskowski, Perry
Ganchar, Bryan Smolinski, Kevin Miller, Garry Valk, Bobby Dollas, Hans Jonsson, Matt Bradley, Mark Recchi, Andrew Hutchinson.
-Rick Kehoe is primarily known as No. 17. Mark Recchi is easily the best player to wear No. 8 here.
-Philip Samuelsson - No. 5 - Larry Murphy, Drake Berehowsky, Ric Jackman, Sergei Gonchar.
-Talk about hit or miss. Murphy and Gonchar are all-stars. Berehowsky and Jackman were terrible. We'll give Murphy the edge over Gonchar as he's in the Hockey Hall of Fame
-The Penguins' starters are Chris Conner, Brandon Sutter, Joe Vitale, Brian Dumoulin, Robert Bortuzzo and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Deryk Engelland, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal.
-The Rangers' starters are Derrick Brassard, Brad Richards, Mats Zuccarello, Michael Del Zotto, Anton Stralman and Henrik Lundqvist.
-Their scratches are Dylan McIlraht and Taylor Pyatt.
19:46: A wrister from Brassard at the center point is blocked by Dumoulin.
18:40: Argh! On a quick developing two-on-one, Derek Stepan feeds a backhanded pass to Nash in the right circle. Nash hurries a shot off the near post.
17:52: A wrister by Harry Zolnierczyk from the right wing is blocked by John Moore.
16:43: After Dumoulin turns the puck over at the New York blue line, Mats Zuccarello has a chance in the left circle but Dumoulin's stick breaks up the shot.
16:13: Ryan McDonagh flips a wrister from the left point wide.
14:19: Del Zotto motors up the left wing, gains the offensive zone and chucks a wrister on net. Also:
I'm guessing Ulf never taught Philip how to wear a chin strap: pic.twitter.com/WSIUWp5Hjk— Seth Rorabaugh (@emptynetters) December 19, 2013
13:41: A wrister by John Moore from above the left circle is wide to the far side.
13:00: Niskanen corrals a puck at the right point and swipes a quick slapper through traffic. Lundqvist kicks it out.
12:26: Dominic Moore centers a puck to Derek Dorsett in the slot. Dorsett has a clean look at the net but a determined backcheck by Zach Sill forces a turnover.
12:10: Off a feed from Pascal Dupuis, Samuelsson uncorks a one-timer from center point. Lundqvist's left leg kicks it out.
11:57: Off some in tight passing, Chris Kunitz lifts a wrister from the left circle which galances off Lundqvist's blocker and sails out of play.
11:14: Off an offensive zone faceoff win, Maatta whacks a one-timer from center point which is off the mark.
11:09: A wrister by McDonagh from the slot is rejected by Fleury.
10:57: After Maatta turns the puck over along his own end boards, Nash and Kreider each have chances in tight. Fleury holds them out.
9:57: Sutter swats a shot from the left point. Lundqvist eats it up.
7:57: Brassard chips a puck up the left wing hoping the waterbug-like Zuccarello (5-foot-7, 179) can simply race it down. Domoulin (6-foot-4, 219 pounds) is able to chase it down from the the slot of defensive zone, beats Zuccarello and reverses ice. A subtle but impressive play.
7:08: Crosby whips a wrister from the slot which Lundqvist boots out.
7:00: Off a feed by Crosby, Dupuis whips a wrister wide of the cage.
6:25: After Crosby battles for the puck in the left wing corner, Kunitz whips a wrister on net. Lundqvist snags it.
5:06: Battling for a puck in front of the benches, Justin Falk (6-foot-5, 215 pounds) rattles Conner (5-foot-8, 190 pounds) with a a good shoulder check.
4:13: Challenging Maatta one-on-one down the slot, Zuccarello gets a step to the right and lifts a backhander wide of the cage.
4:00: A one-timer by Bortuzzo in the slot is blocked by Brassard.
2:58: Off a feed by Benoit Pouliot from the left half wall, Dominic Moore tries to jam in a backhander from between his legs above the blue paint. Fleury holds it out until Samuelsson and Simon Despres and clear the garbage.
2:32: Jokinen flings a wrister from the left point which Lundqvist eats up. Zolnierczyk crashes in and draws a crowd of Rangers players.
1:54: The Penguins are playing with a of green defensemen:
1:32: A half-slapper by Niskanen from above the right circle is kicked out by Lundqvist.
0:00: End of period. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 0, Rangers 0.
-That was about as boring of a period of hockey as you will see. Neither team really took many chances and played it safe for the most part.
-Given the Penguins' situation with a lot of young kids playing on the road in an environment like Madison Square Garden, a hesitant style of play is understandable. You would think the Rangers would try to take advantage of that.
-Both goaltenders were sharp. In regards to quality of shots, Fleury was asked to do a little more than Lundqvist.
-As usual, the Rangers sicked McDonagh and Dan Girardi on Sidney Crosby quite a bit. Stepan faced Crosby quite a bit as well.
-The Penguins lead in shots on net, 9-6.
-The Penguins lead in attempted shots, 16-14.
-Kunitz leads the game with three shots.
-None of the Rangers has more than one shot.
-Niskanen leads the game with 8:50 of ice time.
-McDonagh leads the Rangers with 8:19.
-The Rangers have a 12-6 lead in attempted shots (67 percent).
-Brian Boyle is 4 for 4 (100 percent).
-Crosby is 2 for 5 (40 percent).
-Adams leads the game with two blocked shots.
-None of the Rangers has more than one blocked shot.
19:50: Immediately after the opening faceoff, Maatta sends a pass to feet of Crosby and Crosby turns it over in the Penguins' right circle. Stepan takes the puck and lifts a backhander off the lid of Fleury and out of play.
17:15: Niskanen snaps off a wrister from the right point and it hits a body in front. Kobasew tries to shoot the rebound but his shot is blocked by Falk.
16:49: Craig Adams whacks a slapper from the right wing which is blocked in front.
16:08: Off a partial two-on-one, Crosby has a clean look at the cage from the right of the crease but decides to make a poor drop pass to no one in particularly. The Rangers skate it away. Crosby didn't have a great shot but he had to put that on net.
15:36: Maatta cranks a slapper from the left point which Lundqvist kicks out.
14:46: John Moore pinches in on the left wing and flings a wrister which Fleury steers away.
14:41: Maatta backhands the rebound down ice up the right wing. Conner races for the puck, collects it, gains the offensive zone and challenges Falk one-on-one. He gets a step to the outside and attacks the cage. Falk hacks out his skates and is sent to the penalty box for tripping. That was a great effort by Conner. Crosby, Kunitz, Jokinen, Niskanen and Dumouin take the ice.
14:01: Short-handed, Boyle chips a wrister from the left point. Fleury punches it away.
13:27: Off some perimeter passing, Crosby taps a pass from above the left point to Maatta at center point. Maatta smokes a one-timer over the cage.
12:41: The Penguins' power play is killed with relatively little threat.
12:14: A wrister by Stepan from above the left circle is blocked partially by Samuelsson. Fleury still has to punch it away.
11:58: Nash lifts a wrister from the right point. Fleury fights it off. John Moore follows up on the rebound in the left circle. Fleury rejects that too.
11:28: Off a feed from Jokinen, Niskanen cranks a one-timer from the right point. Despite traffic, Lundqvist fights it off.
11:03: Dupuis is nabbed for hooking Chris Kreider. That's two minutes. Maatta, Adams, Sutter and Niskanen take the ice.
10:03: Off a feed by Kreider, Stepan whacks a one-timer from the slot which hits a body in front.
9:44: A one-timer by McDonagh in the slot is blocked.
8:55: As the Dupuis minor is killed, Del Zotto ropes a wrister from the left point through traffic. Fleury eats it up.
8:39: Collecting a blocked shot in his slow, Dumoulin banks a pass off the right wing boards in the neutral zone and springs Crosby on a breakaway. Crosby collects the pucks on the right wing and veers to the net. McDonagh sticks his blade into Crosby's skates and forces Crosby too shoot wide. Officials sent McDonagh to the penalty box. Crosby protests for a penalty shot. That's hard to believe that wouldn't be a penalty shot. Dumoulin, Niskanen, Crosby, Jokinen and Kunitz take the ice.
7:52: Crosby whacks a one-timer from the right half wall. Lundqvist kicks it out.
7:43: Jokinen taps a loose puck from the slot on net. Lundqvist fights it off.
7:36: With Dorsett playing without a stick, Niskanen booms a one-timer from the center point. Lundqivst says no.
7:18: Taking a pass on the right half wall, Crosby deals a pass to Jokinen in the slot. Girard lays down to block a shot and Jokine sneaks a pass to Kunitz to the right of the blue paint. Kunitz whacks a shot which Lundqvist stops. Kunis able to keep the rebound alive and pushes under a sprawling Lundqvist. That was an ugly but effective way to score a goal. Jokinen and Crosby get assists. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 1-0.
6:10: As Lundqvist smothers a loose puck to freeze play, Brian Gibbons skates in a little too close for Del Zotto's comfort. Del Zotto responds with a cross check. A scrum develops. Del Zotto gets a cross-checking minor. Zolnierczyk gets an unsportsmanlike conduct minor. We'll have four-on-four play for two minutes.
5:18: Taking a pass above the left circle, Maatta whacks a one-timer which Lundqvist boots out.
4:56: A backhander by McDonagh from the right half wall is fought off by Fleury.
4:43: Maatta floats a wrister from the right point which Lundqvist denies.
4:33: Sill lifts a wrister from the right circle which Lundqvist fights off.
4:25: Settling a pass in the neutral zone, Carl Hagelin pushes the puck to the offensvie zone, blows right past Despres and attacks the net. He shows forehand, goes to the backand and tucks a shot through Fleury's five hole. What an effort by Hagelin. Dumoulin was teamed with Despres on that play and didn't seem to offer much help. We wonder if the four-on-four situation forced Despres and Samuelsson to be broken up. John Moore and Richards get assist. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 1, Rangers 1.
2:32: Del Zotto whips a wrister from the left point wide to the near side.
2:05: After an icing call, the Penguins call a timeout to get a breather.
1:20: Stepan get a chance in the left circle. Fleury kicks it out.
1:03: Hageeling races up the left wing and deals a pass to above the blue paint. Pouliot jabs it on net but Fleury kicks it out. Big save.
0:00: End of period. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 1, Rangers 1.
-Thinks opened up quite a bit that period with a few penalties. Each team took a few more chances and as a result we saw a few more goals.
-Despite missing four of their regulars on the power play, the team still finds a way to squeeze out goals with the man advantage.
-We admittedly don't follow the Rangers all that closely but if anyone could explain why Carl Hagelin is on the fourth line, we'd love to hear it.
-The Penguins lead in shots on net, 20-17.
-The Penguins have a 35-33 edge in attempted shots.
-Kunitz leads the game with five shots.
-Stepan leads the Rangers with three shots.
-Niskanen leasd the game with 19:35 of ice time.
-McDonagh leads the Rangers with 15:48.
-The Rangers have a 20-18 lead in faceoffs (53 percent).
-Boyle is 6 for 9 (67 percent).
-Crosby is 9 for 14 (64 percent).
-Adams and Falk each leads the game with two shots.
19:40: McDonagh whacks a slapper from the left point. Fleury eats it up.
19:14: Dupuis hustles up the right wing, pulls up in the faceoff circle and releases a wrister which Nash blocks with his stick.
19:04: Maatta flings a wrister from the left point. Lundqvist fights it off.
18:15: Off a cross-ice feed by Despres, Samuelsson whacks a one-timer from the right half wall. Lundqvist kicks it out.
16:00: Kobasew takes a swing at a puck to the right of the crease but sents it wide.
15:44: Bortuzzo flings a wrister from the center point which hits a body.
15:17: From the right half wall, Crosby tries to connect a cross-ice pass with Dupuis. Stepan hustles on a backcheck, slides and breaks up the pass.
14:35: The one line not impacted by injuries or suspensions comes through. Kunitz breaks McDonagh's stick behind the Rangers' cage with a slight slash. Kunitz takes the puck, moves it to the right half wall and flings a pass to Crosby below the left cicle. Crosby settles the puck and backhands a pass to Dupuis all alone to the right of the cage. Dupuis whips a wrister by the glovehand of a helpless Lundqvist. If officials wanted to be really strict with the rule book, the could have nabbed Kunitz for a slash. Crosby and Kunitz get assists. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 2-1.
14:16: Zolnierczyk and Dorsett mix it up on the next shift and are sent off for roughing. Four on four play for two minutes.
13:47: Stralman flings a wrister from the right point which is blocked.
13:34: Brandon Sutter comes through with an insurance goal. Maatta backhand chips a puck out of a traffic jam in the Penguins' left wing corner. Sutter picks it up above his own left circle and pushes it up the right wing. Gaining the offensive zone, he flips the puck to his backhand, gets some space on Del Zotto and lifts a backhander over the right shoulder of Lundqvist. What a dazzling individual effort by Sutter. He embarrassed Del Zotto on that. Maatta gets the only assist. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 3-1.
12:52: A wrister by Stepan from the right circle is deflected out of play by the stick of Dumoulin.
11:57: Off a defensive zone turnover by Kunitz, Nash settles a puck in the right circle and fire a quick shot which is blocked out of play.
11:51: The Rangers get a chance to narrow the lead as Despres is called for high sticking Dorsett. Maatta Niskanen, Adams and Sutter take the ice.
11:48: Off an offensive zone faceoff win, Brad Richards flings a wrister from the left point wide on the near side.
10:34: Brassard snaps off a wrister from above the left circle wide to the far side.
9:51: As the Despres minor is killed, Brassard swipes a slapper which is deflected out play.
8:57: Despres lifts a wrister fromt he left half wall. Lundqvist fights it off. Crosby jabs at the rebound but undqvist fights it off.
7:35: After a turnover by Dumoulin behind his own net, Brassard tries to jam in a backhanded wraparound from the left of the cage. Fleury holds it out.
7:17: This wasn't going to be that easy down the stretch. John Moore races into the offensive zone on the right wing, cuts to the high slot and releases a wrister. Fleury makes the save at first but allows the puck to squeak through behind him. Zuccarello beats Sill to the puck and punches it in to make it a one-goal game. That was a terrible goal for Fleury to allow. Moore and Falk get assists. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 3-2.
5:42: McDonagh releases a wrister from the left circle which is deflected wide.
5:35: Crosby challenges Stralman one-on-one off the left wing and Stralman goes stick on puck to break up the rush.
3:00: John Moore drops Kobasew with a stick check to the chest inf ront of the Rangers' penalty box.
2:43: Another late power play. Battling for a puck in the slot, Niskanen stick catches Hagelin's face.
2:33: A wrister by Nash in the left cicle is blocked by Maatta.
2:18: Kreider has a chnace to the right of the cage but can't get a clean shot off.
2:01: Maatta chops a puck from the slot down ice.
1:46: Tie game. After Zuccarello gains the offensive zone on the right wing, he veers to the slot and deals a pass to Pouliot in the right circle. Pouliot cranks a one-timer well wide on the near side. The puck hits off the end board and takes crazy bounces to Brassard deep on the left wing. From a seemingly impossible angle, Brassard lifts a shot above a stretched-out Fleury to tie the game. What a goofy goal. Pouliot and Zuccarello get assists. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 3, Rangers 3.
1:01: Dorsett whacks a slapper from the right wing over the cage.
0:09: Off a feed by Despres, Jokinen booms a shot from the top of the left circle. Lundqvist eats it up.
0:00: End of period. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 3, Rangers 3.
The Penguins lead in shots on net, 29-26.
4:46: Kunitz flips a backhander from the right cicle on net. Lundqvist eats it up and Kunitz runs into him with force. Lundqvist is shaken up a bit as a scrum develops behind the net. An athletic trainer attends to Lundqvist. Kunitz actually tries to avoid contact but still caught him. Lundqvist was really fall out of his crease. Regardless, Kunitz is sent off for goaltender interference. Bortuzzo, Adams and Sutter take the ice.
4:18: A slapper by Stepan is fought off by Fleury.
4:10: Richard sbooms a one-timer from above the right circle over the cage.
3:48: Stepan wires a wrister from above the right circle through traffic. Fleury squeezes tight and eats up the shot. The Rangers call timeout to get organized.
3:29: A wrister by Stepan from above the left circle is punched away by Fleury.
2:47: As Kunitz's minor expires, Richards lifts a wrister from the right circle over the cage.
2:38: A wrister by Richards from the left circle is battled away by Fleury.
2:30: Racing into the offensive zone, Kunitz lifts a wrister from teh sl ot which Lundqvist fights off.
2:14: Taking a pass in the high slot, Girardi cranks a one-timer which is no where near the cage.
1:46: Niskanen is deep in the right circle and sneaks a pass to Crosby in the left circle. Crosby lifts a wrister. Lundqvist gets a piece of it and falls back to freeze it as Despres and Sutter crash in. A scrum develops with Pouliot wrestling Despres to the ice.
1:18: A wrister by Pouliot from the left point is wide to the far side.
0:14: McDonagh booms a slapper from the left point. Fleury kicks it out.
0:00: End of period. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 3, Rangers 3.
-Shots are tied, 32-32.
-Zuccarello is up first. He takes the puck, veers a bit to the right, levels out and a approaches the net. He goes forehand and is denied by Fleury's right skate.
-Jokinen gets the nod for the Penguins. With speed, he goes wide to the right levels out, s lwos down and lifts a wrister which Lundqvist rejects with his blocker.
-Nash attacks with speed. Coming in from the right wing, he lifts a wrister which Fleury swats away with his glove.
-Crosby comes down the slot and fires a low wrister which glances off Lundqvist's left pad and deflects wide.
-Dominic Moore goes to the right, levels out and fires a wrister at the five hole. Fleury closes the gates and kicks it out.
-Kunitz Races in off the right wing, attacks the net and goes with a forehand shot. Lundqvist's pokecheck denies him a shot.
-Richards goes right at the net down the slot and lifts a wrister. Fleury stretches otu and kicks it out with his left leg.
-Dupuis is next. He glides in from the right and goes forehand. Lundqvist's right leg kicks it out.
-Pouliot moves right won the slot and attacks with a backhander which rises over the cage.
-Sutter veers slightly to the right, levels out down the slot and snaps off a wrister by Lundqvist's five hole and into the cage to win the game. End of shootout. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 1, Rangers 0. End of game. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 4, Rangers 3.
-We're not sure what can be reasonably expected from the Penguins during this stretch of injuries and suspensions. A team this short-handed should struggle. Surely, you can expect a lot of effort and heart from young players and AHL journeymen. They want to prove they belong at this level. But execution is always sure to lag with players of this caliber. Despite that, this team keeps winning and more often than not, it is winning on its own terms.
-The execution did lag at times in this game. There were some sloppy plays with the puck and some iffy positioning on some plays by the Penguins. That's why they gave up a two-goal lead in the third period and had to win this in overtime. But the fact that this team, as it's presently constructed, won yet another game and did so on the road, is a humungous positive.
-The elephant in the room is Marc-Andre Fleury and the second goal he allowed. It was inexcusable. Period. No goaltender, let along a franchise goaltender, can allow that goal. If he makes a routine save, the Penguins probably win this game cleanly in regulation. But once it did get to overtime and the shootout, Fleury did everything he had to to give his teammates to claim the win. Fleury earned this victory in a positive and negative sense.
-We keep waiting for the roof to cave in on the special teams. The Penguins are missing players vital to the power play and penalty kill yet they keep excelling with both units. The power-play came through with the game's opening goal. And while the penalty kill allowed the game-tying goal on a fluky play, it came through with a clutch, clutch, clutch effort in a four-on-three situation in overtime.
-Despite being the focus of the Rangers' defense with Evgeni Malkin sidelined, Sidney Crosby keeps scraping out points. It wasn't an overly spectacular game for Crosby but he keeps producing.
-Ditto Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis.
-Matt Niskanen stepped up with another huge effort. He played nearly a half hour tonight in every situation. It's amazing to think his career was in shambles in his final days in Dallas. What the Penguins coaching staff, specifically assistant coach Todd Reirden, have done with Niskanen has been a marvel to watch.
-Speaking of coaching, how impressive do Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins head coach John Hynes and assistant coach Alain Nasreddine look right now? These players the Penguins keep summoning are ready right out of the package. Presuming Hynes and Nasreddine want to eventually reach the NHL, their resumes are currently on display and they look spectacular.
-Zach Sill, in limited doses, is starting to win us over. We were skeptical of what he offered when he played his first few games at the NHL level but he's started to find ways to contribute with a hit here or a faceoff win there.
-Did anyone see Rick Nash? He was nearly invisible? We're not sure if he has ever fully recovered from an injury in the early in the season but he was a non-factor.
-Ditto Brad Richards. He had a few shots on that power play in overtime but he was another non-factor.
-Derrick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello posed some issues for the Penguins with their speed.
-Ditto John Moore on the back end.
-Henrik Lundqvist was okay but hardly dominant.
-Shots on net were tied, 32-32.
-The Rangers dominated attempted shots, 68-53.
-Kunitz and Stepan each led the game with seven shots.
-Niskanen led the game with 29:44 of ice time.
-McDonagh led the Rangers with 28:52.
-The Rangers had a 36-35 lead in faceoffs (51 percent).
-Brian Boyle was 9 for 12 (75 percent).
-Crosby was 18 for 30 (60 percent).
-Olli Maatta led the game with three blocked shots.
-Brassard, McDonagh and Justin Falk each led the Rangers with two blocked shots.
-Kunitz (246) passed Peter Lee (245) for 31st on the franchise's all-time scoring list.
-Crosby (714 points) passed HHOFer George Armstrong & ex-linemate Ziggy Palffy (713 each) for 203rd on the NHL's all-time scoring list.