Two goals resulted in a Game 1 loss against the New York Rangers, but they were more than enough for the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday night.
Kris Letang scored the opening goal in the second period, Jussi Jokinen added late insurance with a power-play goal, Evgeni Malkin scored on an empty-netter and Marc-Andre Fleury recorded 22 saves to complete the shutout, as the Pens earned a 3-0 win at CONSOL Energy Center to even the second-round series at one game apiece.
Tonight’s 3 stars: 1. Marc-Andre Fleury 2. Kris Letang 3. Henrik Lundqvist— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 5, 2014
Well, the Penguins played a full 60 on Sunday night. They racked up 35 shots on goal to the Rangers' 22, were faster to the puck, more aggressive and looked like the more dominant team for much of the contest.
Malkin ends a clinical performance from the Penguins. And the series is tied.— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_Trib) May 5, 2014
Crosby wasn't able to end his career-worst playoff-goal drought, which reached 13 games, but he looked markedly more spry, tallying six shots on goal and asserting himself in spectacular fashion on numerous occasions.
As Pro Hockey Talk's Joe Yerdon noted, Malkin was also on top of his game:
Best player for the Pens tonight? Malkin. Crosby's been very good too, but Malkin is just a bull all over the ice.— Joe Yerdon (@JoeYerdonPHT) May 5, 2014
Henrik Lundqvist finished with 34 saves, many of which were of the highlight variety, but it wasn't enough, as the Rangers power-play unit once again sputtered (0-of-4) and the offense couldn't get the job done.
Rangers will take road split, but how can you have that much skill - Nash, Richards, St. Louis, Stepan, etc - and can't score on the PP?— Alan Hahn (@alanhahn) May 5, 2014
Many of those opportunities came in the early portion of the first period, as Chris Kunitz, Matt Niskanen and Malkin all made separate trips to the box for the Pens in the first 7:04 of the game.
Killing off the man advantage was hardly a formidable task for Pittsburgh, though, and DJ Gallo joked that it might even have been a strategy for Dan Bylsma's side:
Clearly the plan is to put the Rangers on the power play all night, assuring they'll never score.— DJ Gallo (@DJGalloEtc) May 4, 2014
After converting three of their first seven power-play opportunities of the playoffs, the Rangers entered Sunday night's game zero for their last 25, and after failing on all four chances on the night, the miserable streak ran to 29.
The period would eventually end with both teams still knotted at zero, but not before Crosby showed glimpses of his regular-season self with an array of dynamic moves that freed him up for a shot on Lundqvist. He wasn't able to score, but The Kid's aggressive play was certainly promising for the Pens.
Andrew Gross of The Record summed up the first 20 minutes:
Scoreless at end of one, Pens up on shots 9-7. Biggest takeaways: 1. Rangers' PP = PU and 2. Crosby = Crosby again.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) May 5, 2014
Lundqvist continued to stand strong in front of goal for the Rangers, stoning a couple of golden opportunities from Kunitz and Crosby to keep things scoreless.
Just past the halfway mark of the second period, though, Letang's pass to Kunitz was redirected into the net after a deflection off Dan Girardi. The goal was originally credited to Kunitz, but it was later changed to Letang, who has been very good this series, as the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Rob Rossi noted:
Thought it might go to Letang. Goes to Kunitz. That said, Letang just having a great start to Round 2 for #pens— Rob Rossi (@RobRossi_Trib) May 5, 2014
Goal credited to Letang. #pens— Rob Rossi (@RobRossi_Trib) May 5, 2014
The Penguins' official Twitter feed gave a look at the opening goal:
Pittsburgh continued to apply pressure, spending the majority of the second half of the frame in the offensive zone, creating a slew of scoring opportunities. After totaling just nine shots on goal in the first period, the Penguins increased that number to 16 in the second, with many of those coming in front of goal.
The possession stats were easily in Pittsburgh's favor:
Lundqvist continued his spectacular play in between the pipes, though, a major reason why the Rangers remained just one goal behind after 40 minutes.
Lundqvist denies Neal from close range. If Lundqvist was playing like many of his teammates, Penguins would be up by a touchdown.— Dave Molinari (@MolinariPG) May 5, 2014
An unnecessary penalty by Derek Dorsett led to Jokinen's power-play goal with less than five minutes to go, and Malkin would add the aforementioned empty-netter to seal the victory.
Despite the loss, the Rangers did their job by stealing one on Pittsburgh's ice and will now face a quick turnaround, returning to New York for Game 3 on Monday night.
Still, if the Penguins continue to piece together complete performances like they did in Game 2, keeping that newfound home-ice advantage is going to be an extremely difficult task for Alain Vigneault's team.