As a Penguins fan, what was tougher to stomach Sunday afternoon – Henrik Lundqvist putting on a goaltending clinic and single-handedly keeping the New York Rangers in the game after two periods, or Matt Cooke taking another stupid, selfish penalty to give the opposition a 5-minute power play?
I’ll take a little bit of the former and a lot of the latter. Lundqvist’s 38 saves (28 after two) were huge in the Rangers 5-2 victory, but it was Cooke’s elbowing penalty that probably cost the Pens the game. Tied 1-1 early in the third, Cooke’s hit at 4:36 set the stage for New York’s comeback. Chris Kunitz actually struck first on the Rangers PP, netting a short-handed goal to give the Pens their only lead of the game. But then Matt Niskanen got called for high sticking and the wheel’s came off. With a 5-on-3 advantage, New York scored twice in 11 seconds to take a 3-2 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Cooke’s penalty, which was completely unnecessary and couldn’t have come at a worse time, was a killer. Despite Kunitz’s shorty, the Rangers got all the momentum they needed from the extended power play. The Pens had absolutely no room for error for five minutes. Niskanen’s high stick was just too much to overcome a tired PK unit without one of their best members (Cooke).
Pittsburgh dominated play in the second, outshooting NY 19-7, but could not solve Lundqvist. This was a tough loss for the Pens, who finished a not-so-good 2-4 against the Rangers this season. Things won’t get any easier Monday in Detroit.