Pens complete road-game sweep of division foes
NEW YORK – When the Penguins left Pittsburgh one week ago for a five-game road trip, including three against Atlantic Division rivals, they were 1-5-5 and coming off a third-period collapse for a deflating loss against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The potential for disaster was not only there, but also very real.
But after beating the division-leading New York Rangers, 3-2, on Monday night at Madison Square Garden, the Penguins (4-6-5) have now won three out of the four games, all against their division opponents, with one game left against the Atlanta Thrashers on Wednesday.
“It could have gone either way, really, and we knew that,” said Mark Recchi, whose point streak ended at six games last night. “Sometimes the road can be a real good thing for a hockey club, especially when you’re struggling a little bit, to just get away for 10 days and hang out with each other. This has been good for us.”
The Penguins held on for the win last night after their 3-0 lead was threatened by a Rangers rally in the third period.
Mario Lemieux scored in the first period, Sidney Crosby got his fifth of the year through the five-hold with two minutes left in the second and Ziggy Palffy made it 3-0 early in the third. Palffy had a chance to make it 4-0 with the Penguins’ first penalty shot of the year at 5:54 but Rangers goaltender Kevin Weekes made a right pad save on his shot to make Palffy 0-for-4 lifetime on penalty shots.
Meanwhile, Penguins goaltender Sebastien Caron, in his sixth start in a row, made 24 saves on 24 shots through the first two periods. But his shutout bid ended at 6:51 of the third when left wing Ryan Hollweg one-timed a shot that beat Caron through the five-hole to make it 3-1.
The Penguins’ lead then narrowed to just one when Marcel Hossa picked himself up after being leveled by defenseman Brooks Orpik and went to the net for a rebound on Steve Rucchin’s shot.
When Matt Murley was called for hooking at 16:13 it gave the Rangers a power play to try to tie it, but the Penguins penalty killers held them off to go a perfect 7-for-7 on the night.
Lemieux said it was their best performance on the penalty kill all season “by far.”
“We knew it was going to be an important road trip for us, especially after the way we started the season,” Lemieux said. “It was perfect timing for us to get on the road and play a simple game and take a little of the pressure off of playing at home. When you play bad you want to be on the road.”
They also kept Rangers leading scorer and former Penguins star Jaromir Jagr off the scoresheet completely for just the second time all year and ended his point streak at 12 games, the second-longest streak in the league going into the game (12 goals, 7 assists).
“It was really important (to keep Jagr off the board), especially early,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “You want to play physical on him but not too physical on him because he can burn you that way. But you play hard on him early, you talk to him a little bit, he gets pretty frustrated if he doesn’t get a couple points early.”
Karen Price is a former freelancer.