The Pittsburgh Penguins won their seventh straight playoff game, and took a commanding 3-0 series lead by defeating the New York Rangers Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Home-ice advantage for games three and four had Ranger fans beaming with confidence over the past 48 hours. The Penguins had not won a game at Madison Square Garden this season, including some of their most disappointing performances in the Big Apple.
But tonight, the Big Apple turned into the Big Joke as the Rangers and their fans all but gave up after the second period.
The scene opened to show the rowdy Ranger crowd, waiving their towels and chanting "Let's Go Rangers." The noise only lasted for sixty-two seconds because Marian Hossa buried a puck off of a rebound given up by Lundqvist. The Hossa-Crosby-Dupuis line was insane tonight, and skated circles around the Rangers' defense.
After the early goal, Jaromir Jagr decided to show everyone that he is still a great hockey player, when he wants to be and tonight, he wanted to be. With the exception of Malkin, Jagr was the best player on the ice each and every shift.
Jagr setup Marty Straka in front of the Penguins' net, but Straka tripped over the puck and memories of "squats gone wrong" filled his head. The Pens went the other way with a 2-on-1. Malkin to Sykora, wide open in front...back to Malkin? Malkin was caught checking out a girl about twenty rows behind the goal, waiting to hear the goal horn sound when instead, the puck went between his feet and the Rangers went the other way.
Jaromir Jagr continued to dominate throughout the first period, the only problem was that his teammates couldn't keep up. Finally, Straka got one of his body parts on a centering pass from 'JJ', and the puck trickled around behind Fleury, eventually dropping into the net.
The play was reviewed, and if a Ranger fan was writing this article in the reverse situation, enough tears would be flowing to fill the Hudson Bay. Good call, 1-1.
Henrik Lundqvist: You know things aren't going your way when Georges Laraque roofs one over your shoulder. 2-1 Pens.
Furthermore, how does Lundqvist justify guaranteeing a victory before this game, when he has given up twelve goals in three games in this series and 5 goals on 17 shots in tonight's game. Lundqvist better worry about stopping some pucks before he guarantees anything more than him not winning the Vezina.
Ryan Callahan goes flying into the Penguins zone, headed toward Hal Gill. Callahan forgets that he is holding a hockey stick, and whacks Gill in the chops during an out of control play. Blood was drawn resulting in a four minute penalty.
During the ensuing power play, you would have been less surprised if Sean Avery announced that he was in fact a homosexual than if the refs gave Tom Renney an "even up" call. But, before they had the chance, Evgeni Malkin lets one loose from the point. Lundqvist never saw the puck, 3-1 Pens at the end of the first period.
The officiating crew eventually showed their hidden agenda to have the home team win every game during the course of this series by calling three consecutive penalties on the Pens. Yeah, and Fleury and Lundqvist decided to switch nets mid way through the period, just because they had nothing better to do. Come on, are you serious?
The Penguins would eventually be faced with two separate 5-on-3 situations during three consecutive penalty kills. They would kill them all. Dupuis, Talbot, Staal, Malone, Scuderi, Gill, Hall, and Gonchar all got the job done acting as a puck proof wall in front of Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Rangers have scored 1 power play goal in this series. If you are stupid or a soccer fan; that is not a good thing.
After the penalty kills, the Pens had all the momentum. Until Ryan Callahan made up for taking the penalty that put his team down by two, by scoring a goal to move the rangers back to within one. The momentum suddenly shifted. For the first time in the series, the Rangers realized that they were not playing a New Jersey Devil caliber team, they actually had to try to win the game. The crowd came alive.
Jagr responded, wrapping the puck around the Penguins' net, then beating Fleury with a wicked wrist shot. The Ranger fans' post goal chant/cheer/whatever you want to call it might be the single most annoying sound that resonates from Madison Square Garden apart from when Bon Jovi is in town.
The Rangers were rolling now. A blind shot bounces off the top of the net, Gomez rings a shot off the post, Fleury looked rattled. Then, Ryan Hollweg makes the worst decision of his life. The old cliche "if you see all of a players' name on the back of his jersey, don't hit him" is totally disregarded, and Hollweg launches Petr Sykora into the boards.
Sykora got in Hollweg's face like he was going to do something. He was probably asking him what type of after shave he was wearing, and wishing him a safe trip to the penalty box.
The momentum that the Rangers had built was about to be crushed by another Evgeni Malkin slap shot. If Ryan Hollweg dresses for Game 4, Tom Renney needs his head examined.
If Ryan Hollweg is playing professional hockey, why isn't my three hundred pound neighbor on the cover of VOGUE? (Because he's not Sean Gayvery, that's why.)
The Penguins put out their half of the Eastern Conference All-Stars on the ensuing power play. They set it up-- Malone to Hossa to Gonchar to Crosby to Malkin, goal. 4-3 Pens at the end of two periods.
The only thing that was more embarrassing than the crowd at MSG during the third period, was the Rangers' effort. The crowd was dead, a few "Let's Go Rangers" chants could be heard briefly about midway through the period, but it was sad.
It's the playoffs, your team is on the verge of being swept, show some emotion. Waive your towels, clap your hands, do that gay post goal cha... well on second thought, no, spare us, please.
The Rangers played twenty of the most motivated minutes of hockey that any group of players has ever played in the second period. They must have left it all on the ice in the second, because the encore looked worse than Ryan Hollwegs' mustache.
Evgeni Malkin would win a faceoff in the offensive zone to Kris Letang at the point. Letang slapped a shot-pass toward the stick of Ryan Malone, who deflected it past Lundqvist to put the final nail in the coffin. 5-3 Pens, shutdown defense for the rest of the game and game over, Pens lead the best-of-seven series 3-0.
Notes: Amber Alert: Brendan Shanahan. Is he even still alive? If so, his talent is still in Detroit.
Jagr was lights-out tonight. By far the best game he has ever played against his former team since the trade.
The Pens scored 5 goals... on just 17 shots. Penguin fan or not, that is impressive.
Fleury was solid, stopping 36 of 39 shots.
Rangers were 0-9 on the power play.
The only thing this young Penguins team has had trouble with during these playoffs: growing their playoff beards.
The Pens improve to 7-0 in the playoffs, and will aim to sweep their second consecutive series on Thursday night.