With 3:00 minutes remaining in regulation it looked as if the Penguins would not be able to find a way to beat Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers stellar goaltender had held them in check throughout the evening and made ever save that his team needed him too. Then all hell broke loose.
“We get an emotional goal right in the end, right after the power play; the puck is in the crease; Evgeni Malkin’s going there, Chris Kunitz gets the big goal and the next shift begins,” said Dan Bylsma. “We get a great play, a great goal and then the penalty situation comes up. It was a lot of hockey packed into the last three minutes, and it didn’t happen in the first 47.
“It looked like it was going to be a 0-0 or 1-0 type of game. It ends up with three goals.”
The Penguins tied the game 1-1 on a Chris Kunitz goal at the 17:29 mark of the third period. The gritty forward crashed the net and knocked a loose puck behind Lundqvist giving his team a much needed shot of momentum. :38 seconds later the Penguins quickly struck again as Matt Cooke took a feed from Pascal Dupuis and took a couple of strides down the left wing before firing a wrister behind Lundqvist from the face-off circle.
The quick flurry of offense seemed to get to Lundqvist, who had been his team’s best player throughout the evening, and he shattered his goal stick on the crossbar. The momentary lapse of reason earned the goaltender an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and the Penguins had their sixth power play of the game. Though they hadn’t been able to cash in with the extra man all evening long, this one stung even more so, as the Rangers would quickly eliminate their lead.
The Penguins, who had managed the puck pretty well in their own zone all evening long got a bit careless with the puck while trying to get back out of the zone. One miscue later and the game was knotted at 2-2 as Marc Staal fired a shot high short side over Marc Andre Fleury’s shoulder. The short handed goal took some of the momentum away from the Penguins and they weren’t able to pull ahead again.
The teams headed to overtime and after some spirited back and forth hockey, another familiar culprit rose up — the CONSOL Energy Center ice. There was a puck battle at the blue line and the puck skipped past the blade of Zbynek Michalek. Michalek tried to stay with the play, but as he went to turn it seemed as if his skate caught a rut and he fell sending the Rangers on a two on one break. Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky had plenty of time to walk in and work the puck around Paul Martin before Callahan finished the play giving the Rangers back the two points that they came within 1:43 of losing.
“We had a puck at the blue line, and that came out, we had a battle there,” said Bylsma. “It got by our defenseman and Zbynek Michalek — there is nothing wrong with his skating, he is a good skater.”
The Penguins were frustrated, but realized that they did some good things in the game before some mistakes derailed their chance at an extra point.
“We played good, did a lot of good things,” said Sidney Crosby. “We made a couple mistakes late and we only got one point out of it.”
The important thing to take away from this game was the fact that the Penguins turned a bad situation into a good one. They were seemingly never going to beat Henrik Lundqvist, but found a way to get a point out the game. I am sure that most in the room will take that, especially in a division game.
“I mean he was solid. I don’t think there was a lot of pucks in and around the net that we didn’t get a handle on or hit the side of the net, or whatever the case was but I don’t think he made a ton of second saves.” – Crosby on Lundqvist’s performance.
“I think that when you are up 2-1 and you have a power play like that it is just a question of keeping the puck on your stick and making the right play. Make sure we keep the puck on the side of the wall and play on the outside controlling the puck and make them force plays…” – Kris Letang explaining what he meant by saying his team had a mental break down.
“The guys played very strong defensively all game… just a bad break. Then the two one one… just a tough way to lose the game.” – Fleury on the overtime goal.
“I think we did a good job, I mean 40 shots on net is a good total for us and is a focus for us and we got to that number.” – Matt Cooke on meeting one of the goals that they set coming into the night.
“They’re a hell of a hockey club. The last two periods I wasn’t frustrated with the team at all, I thought we played really well. Hank made huge saves, which is what you have to do against a team like that. In the third period, I thought we were playing really well territorially, we were down a man for nine minutes in that period.” John Tortorella on the end of the third period.