Scott Gomez of the New York Rangers skates with the puck trailed by Marian Hossa of the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)
But for a total of 35 seconds of clock time, the New York Rangers played a perfect road match against the Pens in Game 1.
Ah, but in those 35 seconds – a 14-second span in the second period and a 20-second spurt in the third – the Blueshirts gave up back-to-back goals twice, ultimately leading to their 5-4 demise.
This game started out very wrong for the Penguins, but ended oh so right. Marc-Andre Fleury certainly did no wonders in net, as Pittsburgh fell behind 3-0 early in the second period, but his teammates – both the superstars and the grinders – provided the offense necessary to best their Broadway foes.
What Pittsburgh should have learned in this victory is that, yes, explosiveness can take you very far, even against a team with experience playing a system.
By all accounts, the Rangers did little wrong in the first half of the game. Early penalty trouble was diffused by the veteran guile of Brendan Shanahan, while Jaromir Jagr, Chris Drury and Scott Gomez all contributed offensively.
When Sean Avery scored on a wrister, it looked as if Fleury had reverted back to his former shaky self, a doomsday scenario for Western Pennsylvania.
Fortunately for Penguins fans (and coach Michel Therrien's sanity), the team rode a couple lucky deflections and some tenacious forechecking coupled with pinpoint passing back into a position of strength.
When former Pen Martin Straka took an interference penalty in the waning minutes of a 4-4 tie, the vibe for a go-ahead Pittsburgh goal was strong and the prophecy fulfilled by an Evgeni Malkin tip not long into the man advantage.
So what do the Rangers take away from this game? A mixed bag. Their veteran defenseman, such as Michal Rozsival and Christian Backman, would probably care for a do-over. On the other hand, Marc Staal is quickly cementing his reputation as a future star on the blueline and Dan Girardi was also impressive on the back end.
Offensively, the team scored with balance and consistency, while Henrik Lundqvist was faultless on most Penguins goals, several of which went off skates or bodies at odd angles.
Had it not been for a couple momentary lapses in judgement, the complexion of this series after one game would be very different. But of course, those lapses happened and if the Rangers don't tighten up in Game 2, there will be a lot of mistakes and regrets haunting New York in a week.
THN.com's Playoff Blogs, featuring analysis and opinion on the action from the night before, with insight on what happened and what it all means going forward, will appear daily throughout the NHL playoffs. Read more entries HERE.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his features, The Hot List and Year of the Ram, appears Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.
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