Fleury, Penguins blank Rangers to even series
May 5, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
NHL PRESS RELEASE
The Penguins killed off three power plays in the first seven minutes of the game, and Fleury stopped all 22 shots he faced to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 3-0 win against the New York Rangers in Game 2 of this Eastern Conference Second Round series.
"You feel like you're behind the 8-ball when you have six minutes of killing in the first 12 minutes of the game," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "I thought our killers did a great job, answered the bell, did an extremely god job. They had [two] shots on three of those penalty kills. They did an outstanding job and we gained momentum from there."
The shutout was Fleury's first of the playoffs and seventh in his postseason career, the most in team history. It also was his 50th playoff win. Fleury is one of 17 goalies in history to win 50 or more Stanley Cup Playoff games.
Kris Letang had the winning goal and two assists, Evgeni Malkin had a goal and an assist, and Jussi Jokinen scored for the Penguins, who tied the best-of-7 series 1-1. Game 3 will be Monday in New York (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
Henrik Lundqvist stopped 32 shots for the Rangers. New York's sputtering power play went 0-for-4 for the second straight game. The Rangers also went the final 11:38 of the game without a shot on goal.
It's the first time the Rangers have been shut out in the playoffs in exactly one year. They lost 1-0 in overtime to the Washington Capitals in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on May 4, 2013.
The Rangers had three opportunities in first 7:04 of the game to take the lead but their power play instead extended its run of futility to 29 consecutive unsuccessful power plays, dating to Game 2 of their first-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers.
They had one shot on goal with Chris Kunitz in the penalty box 40 seconds in for goalie interference; one shot with Matt Niskanen off for roughing at 3:36; and no shots with Malkin off for boarding at 7:04.
While the Penguins survived the early test from the Rangers, New York never fully recovered.
"Power play had some good looks," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "Could have given us some momentum but we didn't finish. Power play ultimately is my responsibility. I have to find the right trigger potions to make it work and I'll spend the night trying to figure it out."
While the Penguins' penalty killing helped, Fleury also was impressive.
"He played outstanding," Letang said. "I think he's been playing really good since the beginning of the playoffs. He kept us in the game, made some big saves at key moments. He was our best penalty killer out there."
Fleury said he didn't feel any extra pressure while Lundqvist was matching him save for save for most of the game.
"I just tried to stop the next one," he said. "Just tried to keep us in the game. We were playing so well. It wasn't the busiest night but just tried to keep it there."
Letang finally broke the ice with a goal at 10:26 of the second period. Malkin carried the puck into the Rangers end on the left side and sent a pass across to Letang. The Pittsburgh defenseman got into the right circle and tried to center a pass to Chris Kunitz down low, but the puck went off the stick of sliding Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi and past Lundqvist.
The goal was Letang's 15th in the playoffs, tying him with Larry Murphy, a member of the Hockey Hall of fame, for the most postseason goals by a defenseman in team history.
Fleury continued to shine while preserving the lead. He made 10 saves in the second; three of those came on the Rangers' lone power play of the period, including a point-blank stop on a chance in close off a faceoff by Brad Richards.
Lundqvist was just as good at the other end, stopping Kunitz on a breakaway after he jumped out of the penalty box, then getting his right pad on a Sidney Crosby chance on the post after a long diagonal pass through the zone by Brian Gibbons.
Jokinen's power-play goal with 3:30 remaining, off the rebound of a shot by James Neal, put the game away. The goal extended Jokinen's scoring streak to six games; he has three goals and three assists in that span.
Malkin closed the game with an empty-net goal with 53.5 seconds remaining.
Although the Penguins were happy with the win, they know there isn't a whole lot time to celebrate. Both teams flew back to New York on Sunday night to do what they could to rest up for Game 3 on Monday.
"Just enjoy [Sunday]," Fleury said. "We got the win, get back at it [Monday] morning. [Monday] is another big game."
It will be the Rangers' second set of back-to-back games of the postseason, after playing Games 6 and 7 of the first round on consecutive nights. It will be the sixth game in nine nights for the Rangers.
Vigneault wasn't accepting fatigue for the way his team played in Game 2.
"Did my goaltender look tired?" he said. "He was on top of his game. He wasn't tired. I don't think anybody else should be tired. He's played every minute of these playoffs, so if he's not tired no one else should be."
It's been a rough way to start the postseason, but the Rangers aren't looking for any sympathy.
"You just have to tell yourself it's good," Lundqvist said. "There's no other way. It's been fun to be out there. Obviously it's a lot of hockey, but you just tell yourself it's a great opportunity to play the first home game in Round 2."