The Rangers played a complete team game last night en route to a 5-1 thrashing of the first place Pittsburgh Penguins. Aside from the first period, when New York spend a lot of time in their own zone and the Pens had doubled-up on the Rangers in Fenwick events, the Rangers were just the better team. The Blueshirts used their speed and aggressive neutral zone forecheck (1-2-2) to force many turnovers. The biggest thing was that the Rangers capitalized off these turnovers.
That said, the Rangers still took six penalties against a dangerous Pittsburgh team. They allowed just one goal, as the penalty kill is one of the more aggressive we’ve seen of late. The PKers don’t collapse and block shots all the time, they are switching setups (diamond, box) and pressuring the puck depending on location. Aside from the penalties, the Rangers really did a great job of shutting down the best team in the East (to date).
On to the goals:
Rangers 1, Pens 0
Evgeni Malkin simply didn’t track Ryan McDonagh behind him as McD was able to find open ice in the slot. Brian Boyle’s strong play on the puck behind the net to break free of Olli Maata was a play that Boyle is so good at. Many rip on Boyle for lack of “toughness” but toughness isn’t fighting. It is using size to gain strong position along the boards and outworking your opponent. Boyle was able to get past Maata and get a backhand pass to McDonagh, who beat Marc-Andre Fleury shot side.
Rangers 2, Pens 0
Mats Zuccarello forced Dustin Jeffrey into a turnover along the near side boards to start the play. Both defensemen turned and went for the puck on Zucc’s stick instead of looking around to see Derek Stepan streaking in behind them. Zucc placed a perfect floater where only Stepan could get it. Stepan beat Matt Niskanen to the puck and quickly shot it past Fleury for the 2-0 lead.
Rangers 3, Pens 0
Anton Stralman forced another Jeffrey turnover in the defensive zone, springing the Rangers for an offensive chance after a fortuitous bounce off the lineman. Brad Richards picked up the loose puck after it hit the lineman for a 3-on-2 rush. Boyle, who set up the first goal, came streaking in from the DZ after the turnover, beating a “backchecking” Jeffrey to the high slot. Boyle beat Fleury short side.
Penguins 1, Rangers 3
Malkin received pick on the powerplay down low, and just threw the puck in front off Henrik Lundqvist. All four New York penalty killers collapsed on the puck in an attempt to clear, but were unsuccessful. Kris Letang came down from the weak side and poked home the loose puck.
Rangers 4, Pens 1
Richards and John Moore combined to force a turnover at the blue line, where Richards was able to get the puck to Carl Hagelin to gain the offensive zone. While Hagelin maintained possession across the blue line, Richards and Ryan Callahan cut to the middle to get in front of the Hagelin wrist shot from the point. Both players deflected the shot, and it beat Fleury glove side. It’s amazing that this developed from a 3-on-5 rush in the zone. Somehow a pair of Rangers were wide open in front of the net.
Rangers 5, Pens 1
Maata turned the puck over (again) to Derick Brassard in the offensive zone, where the Rangers worked the puck along the far side boards and eventually to the near side face off circle. Derek Dorsett fired a backhand to the slot, where the puck ricocheted off Robert Bortuzzo’s skates to Brassard –who was creeping in behind the defense– who banged it home.
Fenwick Chart (Courtesy of ExtraSkater):
The Rangers were being outplayed in the first period by a wide margin (almost 2-to-1 shot attempt advantage for Pittsburgh). After the pair of goals for New York, the possession game started swinging heavily in the Rangers’ favor, and eventually wound up with a significant advantage at the end of the game. Being dominated in the first ten minutes appears to be a common trend for this club, let’s hope it doesn’t bite them.
This win puts the Rangers at 7-8 with wins in four of five and five of seven. This is a team that was dead last –I don’t count the FLOLyers after coming home from their road trip at 3-6. They are 4-2 since that trip, beating teams they should be beating. The goal for this two game stretch against Pittsburgh and Anaheim was to play well and come out with at least two points. They accomplished both. Now it’s on to Columbus tonight for a game against a Blue Jackets squad that has lost four in a row."Complete team game in 5-1 rout of Penguins",