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Penguins vs. Rangers: Biggest Takeaways from Game 3

Franklin SteeleAnalyst IIMay 6, 2014

Penguins vs. Rangers: Biggest Takeaways from Game 3

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    The New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins split Games 1 and 2 of their 2013-14 NHL playoff semifinal series and struggled to find much rhythm in the Steel City. Both squads played their best contest of the series in Game 3, though you might not know it if you glanced at the shot totals.

    New York badly outshot the Penguins, but Pittsburgh cashed in on its high-quality chances, while the Blueshirts misfired on several occasions.

    The penalty circus didn't make the trip to the Big Apple, and the referees (mostly) let the boys out on the ice settle it the good ol' fashioned way, although a call on Paul Martin late in the third period certainly made things interesting.

    Pittsburgh wrangled back home-ice advantage with a 2-0 victory on Monday in New York on the strength of back-to-back shutouts from Marc-Andre Fleury, setting up a big Game 4 for the Rangers if they want to hang in this series.

Breakaways out of the Box Are a Set Play for the Penguins

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    OK, so maybe breakaways out of the box aren't quite a set play for the Penguins, but they're creating chances immediately after killing penalties with alarming regularity. They've seen two different players score directly out of the penalty box in this series, and they have been dangerous short-handed in general.

    Against a team that's as offensively prolific as the Penguins, giving up chances like the one Jussi Jokinen scored on just isn't an option for the Rangers. Pittsburgh has two shorties and two goals on these kinds of breakouts through nine games in the playoffs—that's a pretty solid clip.

    New York's power play has been downright atrocious, and this is just salt rubbed in that wound.

Rangers Are on the Cusp of Establishing a Strong Power Play

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Penguins produced a few good short-handed chances, but that doesn't negate the progress that the Blueshirts made in the second period of Game 3. They had two opportunities to break their nasty power-play goalless streak in the first period but failed to convert on those chances.

    The same issues that plagued the Rangers in Games 1 and 2 were apparent through the opening frame. No one looked dynamic, no one was shooting the puck and everyone stood still for the most part.

    Then something clicked, and a few different players got the juices going with the extra man. In particular, Martin St. Louis and Raphael Diaz were strong with the puck and made some good things happen while moving from high to low and vice versa.

    They were 0-of-5 on the evening and are now 0-of-13 in the series, but they're due for a breakthrough.

Sidney Crosby Is Not Injured

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    He has a goal, so can we hang this narrative up to dry for the remainder of the postseason now? After meandering through Round 1 with only six assists in six games, some pundits began to worry about No. 87's health.

    Was he not scoring goals because he was injured? Where was the electricity that we usually see from Sidney Crosby during the playoffs? A player dealing with a bit of an unlucky streak clearly wasn't the answer.

    Or maybe it was.

    Crosby elevated his level of play in Game 2 and finally broke through in Game 3 with a stellar shot on a breakaway that beat Henrik Lundqvist cleanly through the five-hole. It's time to cut the "Kid" some slack and recognize that he's all of three points away from catching Evgeni Malkin at No. 3 in playoff scoring.

Henrik Lundqvist Might Be Tired

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    USA TODAY Sports

    It's not an excuse for Lundqvist, but the 32-year-old looked a bit gassed in Game 3. Only three goalies played more minutes during the regular season, and the tight and intense schedule to open the third round seems to have worn on "King."

    Giving up two goals on 15 shots isn't something that Lundqvist typically does. He looked outstanding in Games 1 and 2 but couldn't come up with any important saves in Game 3. Both top-end chances against him got by him.

    Neither breakaway is his fault directly. Crosby isn't a guy you want to hand a breakaway too, and Jokinen isn't half bad in one-on-one situations either. Still, we've all seen Lundqvist make stops on opportunities like these—in the last seven days, even—and he wasn't very sharp in Game 3.

    His forwards didn't do him any favors by getting shut out for the second straight time, but the defense can't do much more than only allowing 15 shots against and leading the postseason in shot blocking.

The Penguins Have Access to a Time Machine

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    Scott Levy/Getty Images

    Back-to-back shutouts for Fleury? What is this, 2009?

    Either the Penguins have a time machine back in Pittsburgh, or "Flower" is settling into high-end playoff form for the first time in a half decade. He was shaky in Round 1, pitching in two sub-.900 save percentages and allowing the Columbus Blue Jackets to hang around longer than expected.

    Fleury wasn't perfect in the first game of this series, but he's been outstanding since allowing an overtime goal to the Rangers in Game 1. That's a 120-minute shutout streak for one of the more maligned goalies in the game.

    His body language has changed, and he's feeling more confident as the saves pile up. Pittsburgh's defense has helped out, but it's impossible to ignore his 35-save effort in Game 3.

     

    All statistics appear courtesy of NHL.com unless otherwise noted and are accurate through Game 3.

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