Going into Madison Square Garden and getting a win is a tough thing to do but all the Penguins did was go into MSG and beat the Rangers 4-1 behind unreal performances from Marc Andre Fleury and Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins haven’t beat a ton of good teams this year but this was a time that they got a much needed victory over a really strong team. Feels great.
The Penguins played a strong game for 60 minutes and while the Rangers came on strong in the second period the Penguins shut the door in the third period when they scored three goals, including an empty netter, to get out of New York with a big victory.
The first period was all Penguins all the time. They were outshooting the Rangers 8-0 about half way through the period and were up 1-0 on a Chris Kunitz goal just 3:16 in. Kuntiz won a battle for the puck along the boards and fed it to a wide open Paul Martin who got a good chance off that Henrik Lundqvist stopped but Kunitz followed the play up with a roof job for the lead. Great play by Kunitz.
The Rangers then got the next six shots of the game and MAF was holding the fort. Thje Penguins finished up the period with six of the next eight shots. It was really a dominating period for the Penguins and it was a much needed one against a good team. We have all seen this movie though, the Penguins play a solid first period and then just get waxed in the second and third. Not this time.
The Penguins held the fort in the second period even though the Rangers tied it up. Meh. The third period was a different story. Just over two minutes into the period the Penguins got a three on one and Richard Park beat Stunnedqvist on the short side. The Penguins usually struggle with those odd man breaks but Park buried it this time.
Evgeni Malkin pretty much put the game on ice around five minutes later. Kris Letang threw the puck around the boards and Marc Staal tried to kick the puck out of the zone and totally missed. Luckily for the Penguins Malkin was there, picked up the puck and rocketed a backhander past Lundqvist where mama keeps the cookies. Sick goal.
Malkin iced it with an empty netter. Money.
Letang was back for his first game since November and looked like he didn’t miss a beat. I knew how good he was while he was out but you really didn’t understand how much the Penguins missed him till you saw him play tonight. He is one of the smoothest hockey players in the league and while the Penguins said they were going to manage his minutes they had him out there for 24:17 which led the team. Just a really great performance for Letang and it made a huge difference for the team.
Evgeni Malkin is just on an unreal pace right now. He is the best player on the ice every night and with his two goals tonight still leads the scoring race. He has scored something like six of the Penguins last eight goals and when the Penguins need a huge play or a huge goal he is right there. You really can’t say he isn’t the best player in the game because he is. Not many players can do what he does on a night in and night out basis. In his last six games he has eight goals and two assists and he really just can’t be stopped.
As good as Malkin was tonight my first star of the night goes to Marc Andre Fleury. He made 30 saves on 31 shots and never gave the Rangers much of a chance. When MAF is on there really isn’t too many goaltenders better than him and as of recent he has been outstanding. Without him the Penguins would be in some trouble. He has played in the last 19 games (17 starts) and has been as solid as can be. Malkin and Neal are getting a ton of credit, and deservingly so, but MAF is the real reason this team is playing so well and didn’t falter with all the injuries.
The Penguins got some clutch secondary scoring from Richard Park. The Penguins have been so hinging on Malkin and Neal so much that they really didn’t need the secondary scoring but they needed it tonight and got it. A clutch goal from Richard Park that was created Matt Cooke and Deryk Engelland scored what ended up being the game winning goal and it was all good. Joe Vitale and Pascal Dupuis played a real solid game and the fourth line was all over the Rangers.
This was a total team win for the Penguins. With Kris Letang back in the lineup they were finally able to have the core group of defenseman playing the same game and with the third and fourth lines rolling they were able to open up some more ice for the high profile players which lead to a big victory over the Rangers. Paul Martin and Zybnek Michalek played unreal hockey tonight and you can just tell they felt more at ease with their defensive teammates all there with them. Let’s not kid ourselves this is a good Rangers team and the Penguins were able to pretty much control the flow all night. Feels great.
Montreal in like six minutes.