In the preview I talked about the Penguins typically don’t play back-to-back bad games and after playing a dreadful game on Sunday against Buffalo they stepped up and play on of their best games of the season against the Rangers, earning the shutout 2-0. The last time the Penguins beat the Rangers in MSG last month they played a really solid game with a 4-1 win. The Penguins played like they had something to prove and they proved it.
Honest to God I don’t think I can look at the game and tell you one guy who didn’t play an outstanding game. Typically in games you win, even dominating ones, there are players that made some huge mistakes and just had a bad game. Not tonight. What a performance.
Marc Andre Fleury didn’t have to make a whole ton of saves but he held the fort down and didn’t even let the Rangers come close to scoring a goal. Early on it looked like he was a little out of position but he really settled in. The shutout was the 22nd of MAF’s career which puts him in a tie with Tom Barrasso for the Penguins all-time lead. MAF might not have the flashy stats but all he does is win. Tonight was his 31st win and while I don’t really buy wins for a goaltender, much like a pitcher in baseball, it is pretty impressive.
You know who else should give themselves a pat on the back tonight? The defensive core, most notably Kris Letang, Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek. All three of those guys were out of their respective minds tonight and absolutely made every right play. This is what we were expecting out of Michalek and Martin all season. Sure, this one good game by those guys doesn’t erase a lot of lousy games but is this the start of something good? With Brooks Orpik out Martin was paired with Letang and they did work. Letang logged over 28 minutes of action while Martin had over 26 minutes. Those are big time minutes against a pretty talented offensive team. Fleury did a great job tonight but he can buy those guys a beer for it too.
Evgeni Malkin scored on a pretty sick breakaway to open up the scoring and it was all the Penguins needed.
What a pass from Letang.
They also got a power play goal from Steve Sullivan with an assist from Malkin so that rounds out the scoring. The Penguins special teams have been pretty unreal lately. They have killed off 40 of the last 42 power plays and tonight they killed off all three attempts with really no pressure from a pretty bad Rangers power play.
Steve Sullivan has been playing some outstanding hockey lately. He was exceptionally good on the power play and had the energy of a guy that just came into the league. The shot he scored the goal on was a rocket shot that beat Lundqvist on the blocker side and did a great job of keep the puck in the zone on both the power play and 5-on-5.
The Penguins really dominated the Rangers tonight. New York started out fairly strong but the Penguins quickly took over in the first period and held the offensive zone for long stretches of play. On two or three different occasions the Penguins had two or three minute spans inside the Rangers zone. While the Rangers did a nice job of blocking shots and packing in around Lundqvist the Penguins continually kept the pressure on, cycled well and kept the puck in the zone. Just a great offensive effort.
Penguins will be back at the CONSOL on Saturday when they play the Lightning.