Ranger fans left The Garden disappointed tonight, as the Blueshirts dropped their home opener to the Penguins, in particularly brutal fashion, 6-3. In a game we saw The King pulled in the second period, Rick Nash’s first Ranger goal, and continued sloppy, disjointed play, the good guys fell to 0-2-0 on the young season. Let’s break down the goals…
Penguins 1, Rangers 0: Only seconds after Aaron Asham kicked the game off with a solid tilt with Tanner Glass, Brad Richards took an undisciplined interference penalty just :37 into the game. On the ensuing Pittsburgh powerplay, after some pressure, Marc Staal failed to the clear the zone as his attempt was picked off by Kris Letang. The Pens continued to move the puck and eventually caught the Rangers running around. James Neal was left alone in the slot, and he rifled a shot low to the glove side and past Lundqvist. There may have been a small screen there, but I think Hank will want that one back.
Penguins 1, Rangers 1: Around the nine minute mark, the Rangers were starting to buzz offensively. An aggressive forecheck lead to a Simon Despres penalty for holding. On the faceoff, Brandon Sutter took a penalty for playing the puck with his glove. Apparently this is a new penalty this year. Just ask Sam, he’ll tell you all about it. This lead to a full two minute 5-on-3 for the Rangers. The Pens decided to play two forwards and one defenseman and collapse the front of the net. This allowed the PP unit the opportunity to move the puck freely around the perimeter and seek openings down low. After alternating the two tactics, Richards drifted down into the high slot and ripped a half slapper toward the net. Tomas Vokoun was unable to control the rebound and Captain Cally banged in the rebound as it was bouncing for the equalizer.
Penguins 2, Rangers 1: This goal was all Stu Bickel. First, Joe Vitale beat him along to the wall to sneak in for an off-angle shot on Lundqvist. Hank made the save but deposited a big, juicy rebound right in front of the net. As Bickel was following up on the missed check on Vitale, he got pulled in below the goal line on Vitale’s chance and missed the trailing Tyler Kennedy who promptly knocked home the rebound.
Penguins 3, Rangers 1: Bad luck here, Rangers lose the defensive zone draw as Pitt finds an open Matt Niskanen at the point. The puck was bouncing on him a bit as he took an innocent looking wrist shot. The puck hit Dan Girardi’s skate on the way in and re-directed it enough to slip it past Hank through the five hole.
Penguins 4, Rangers 1: At 8:03 of the middle frame, Michael Del Zotto was called for a somewhat suspect slashing penalty. On the Penguin’s powerplay, they established fairly strong pressure in the offensive zone, which left the Rangers desperate for a change. The Rangers finally cleared the puck and bolted for the bench. The puck didn’t get as deep as they would have liked, and James Neal was able to throw an absolutely beautiful, full length pass to the Ranger blue line. From there, Chris Kunitz found Evgeni Malkin streaking into the zone behind the changing Blueshirts. This lead to a two on one low in the zone, and Malkin found Pascal Dupuis for an easy tip in. That was it for Lundqvist.
Penguins 5, Rangers 1: The Pens increased their lead after Lundqvist’s exit. A strong forecheck found the Penguins applying continued offensive pressure. When the puck moved to Malkin along the far wall, Brian Boyle completely missed his assignment and was pulled into the far corner. Malkin found James Neal wide open in the slot. He ripped a shot through the five-hole on Marty Biron and the Penguins were in the driver’s seat.
Penguins 5, Rangers 2: The Rangers started showing some signs of life toward the middle of the third period. Brad Richards seemingly traversed the entire width of the ice as he entered the zone, which allowed Michael Del Zotto to enter the zone as a trailer, and end up down low with Richie at the point. Richards slid the puck down the near side wall to Del Zotto, and tick-tac-toe to Taylor Pyatt for a nice tip in and his first Ranger goal.
Penguins 5, Rangers 3: A little past the thirteen minute mark, the Penguins found themselves on the powerplay once again. The PK unit was able to clear the puck and the Pens went for a change. Malkin’s pass was intercepted by Stepan and the Rangers were off on a mini-breakaway/2-on-0 with Rick Nash. As the Pittsburgh defenders bore down on Stepan, he slid the puck to his right to Nash who cut to the front of the net around a sprawling Sidney Crosby/Thomas Vokoun and into the back of the net. Absolute beauty. Exactly the type of goal Nash was brought here to score.
Penguins 6, Rangers 3: With Biron pulled for an extra attacker, Cally attempted a centering pass which was picked off by Kris Letang. Easy empty netter. Goodnight.
1. I didn’t get to watch the game last night, but from what I’ve heard about it, combined with this game, Henrik Lundqvist doesn’t have his legs under him completely yet. Half a season of not playing will do that. He needs ice time and reps, but he will be back to form in no time. For the record, as awesome as that glove save was in Boston, I think it was a goal.
2. Stu Bickel was absolutely dreadful tonight. It seemed like every time I saw him on the ice he was making a mistake.
3. Tomas Vokoun played pretty well. He weathered the Rangers offensive flurrys well, and though he had a little rebound issue tonight, he played more than well enough for Pittsburgh to grab the two points. It’s weird because he is usually terrible, so that’s frustrating.
4. Marty Biron played well in relief of Hank.
5. Stepan had stone hands tonight. He had to pass the puck about 3 feet to Nash on his goal, so I don’t think that remedies his incredible poor puck handling most of the evening.
6. While the result is far from ideal, I saw some real offensive potential in this group. They need to shake the rust off and regain the discipline and organization that was such a strength for them last season. However, I saw a lot of diversity in the attack during the first and third periods when they were able to generate serious pressure. The locations of attack weren’t predictable and they were able to get shots off from varied areas of the ice.
7. Rick Nash is a beast. His on ice presence and command of the puck is noticeable every time he is out there. He creates offense from all types of situations and protects the puck incredibly well, which lead to quality offensive chances all night. By far the Rangers best player, and I’m seeing a huge year for him.
8. Vicious hit (but completely legal) by Brooks Orpik on Chris Krieder. Gotta keep your head up when crossing the tracks like that. Hope he’s ok. With all the concussion issues the league has dealt with the past couple years, its tough to know the consequences of a hit like that at this point.
The Rangers are off until Wednesday night when Boston comes to town for the back half of the home-and-home. While 0-2 is not where this team wants to be, this isn’t the end of the world. They need to get their act together quickly, though.