Rangers hold off streaking Penguins for victory
NEW YORK — The Penguins believe they are comprised of the parts necessary to navigate the road toward the Stanley Cup.
They just might be built that well, but their driving is awfully bumpy the more distance they put between themselves and Pittsburgh.
A 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night was their fourth defeat in five road games, and this one followed a familiar recipe.
They have allowed multiple power-play goals in four games this season, all on the road.
“Our penalty kill hasn’t been very good (on the road), and that’s not a good recipe to have,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “We gave them up (last night) fairly easily.”
Those are words not easily spoken by Bylsma, who like general manager Ray Shero, desires a team that is “tough to play against.”
The Rangers scored twice on the power play, both goals coming in a four-marker second period that began with the Penguins possessing the puck for most of three minutes before a holding penalty by winger Pascal Dupuis stymied momentum.
Before the Penguins could blink, their 1-0 lead was a 4-1 deficit, with the Rangers snagging power-play goals from Ryan Callahan and Marian Gaborik.
Center Evgeni Malkin, with seven seconds left in the second, and Dupuis, about four minutes into the third, pulled the Penguins within a goal, but the damage of that Rangers’ second-period surge was the equivalent of a New York City mugging.
“We were dominant enough in the offensive zone,” Penguins winger Matt Cooke said. “We need to be committed enough to stay there.”
The Penguins held a 16-9 shots advantage before the Rangers finished the second period on a 15-8 run.
This was the first of three consecutive road games for the Penguins (14-7-4, 32 points), and six of their next eight are away from Consol Energy Center. They are 2-5-1 on the road dating to Oct. 29 and just 6-6-2 overall outside of Pittsburgh.
Even the white-hot offensive performances of centers Sidney Crosby and Malkin over the past five games (a combined six goals and 20 points) may not make up for what ails the Penguins when they don their road white jerseys.
This was one of those games, a contest between longtime division rivals each with legitimate Cup aspirations, a matchup that favors neither club and one in which no lead seems safe.
Bylsma was bullish on the Rangers (13-5-3, 29 points) before they won a 10th of 12 games.
“I don’t think they should be (considered) lying in the weeds,” he said. “They’ve played very well. They’ve played some good teams and beat them.”
This was the Penguins’ first of 10 in 20 games against opponents that began this week in the top eight of either the Eastern or Western Conference. The Rangers were one of 16 teams the Penguins will play during this run whose record was at or above .500.
Penguins, 1-0 (17:56 PP): RW James Neal ripped a low shot through some net-front traffic and bested Rangers G Henrik Lundqvist after taking a feed from C Sidney Crosby.
Rangers, 1-1 (8:01 PP): RW Ryan Callahan worked his way to the left of Penguins G Marc-Andre Fleury and from the corner of the blue pain tapped in a pass from Rangers RW Marian Gaborik, who made a nifty move while working toward the slot before dishing the puck.
Rangers, 2-1 (14:09): C John Mitchell whipped a shot over the shoulder of Fleury after taking a pass from Rangers LW Carl Hagelin. The sequence was started by a breakout pass from deep in the defensive zone by D Brian Boyle.
Rangers, 3-1 (15:39): C Brad Richards used Penguins D Brooks Orpik as a screen and whipped a shot high past Fleury. Rangers Callahan kept a puck alive along the boards while battling Crosby in the neutral zone, and LW Ruslan Fedotenko retrieved it and moved a pass quickly to Richards.
Rangers, 4-1 (18:26 PP): Gaborik deftly directed a rebound past Fleury, who had sprawled right-to-left to make an initial leg pad save on Gaborik’s backhand shot. Rangers D Michael Del Zotto set up Gaborik’s initial shot.
Penguins, 4-2 (19:53): C Evgeni Malkin swopped in and swiped a rebound goal off a shot by Neal, who had taken a pass from LW Steve Sullivan before placing a low blast on Lundqvist.
Penguins, 4-3 (3:39): Crosby barged to the net, and after drawing a penalty, left the puck for RW Pascal Dupuis, who whistled a shot over Lundqvist.