Advantage New York.
Climbing back from a two goal deficit, the Pittsburgh Penguins couldn’t complete the comeback, and lost 3-2 in overtime to the New York Rangers, who took a 1-0 series lead Friday night.
The first period was exactly the type of start Pittsburgh was hoping to avoid.
Splitting the defense and firing a wrist-shot on Pens’ goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, Rangers’ forward Benoit Pouliot saw the puck go off the netminder’s shoulder and into the net just 5:04-minutes into the opening period.
Pittsburgh looked utterly languid in the first stanza, and it showed on that first goal from New York. But the Rangers wouldn’t end the period without putting another goal up on the scoreboard.
A wild sequence behind the net, Rangers’ forward Carl Hagelin found a wide-open Brad Richards in front, and buried it by a sprawling Fleury, to put New York up 2-0 heading into the locker room.
The second period is when the Pens’ displayed more of a jolt.
Dragging the puck across ice near the blue-line, forward Beau Bennett dropped it off to Lee Stempniak, who got past three Rangers’ defenders and potted the Pens’ first goal of the game on a backhand shot. And Pittsburgh from thereon would keep coming.
Feeding off the crowd’s resurgent energy, forward Jussi Jokinen dished it to James Neal in the slot, who unleashed a heavy wrist-shot on Rangers’ goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, and saw the puck trickle down the netminder’s back and into the net.
Pens’ center Evgeni Malkin was screening Lundqvist to the point it probably should have been called goalie interference, however was not, and Pittsburgh went down the runway feeling good about their second period efforts.
With the score all tied up at two, both New York and Pittsburgh traded blows in the third.
The Pens’ best chance came at the tail end of regulation, when Stempniak was vying for his second goal of the game. Skating towards Lundqvist with time winding down, Stempniak toe-dragged, and let off a quality shot, but failed to capitalize. The game would go to overtime knotted up at two.
And it wouldn’t take long for New York to score.
Erratic defensive play in their own zone, Pittsburgh was in a mad scramble in front of Fleury, and Rangers’ forward Derek Brassard sent home the game-winner, beating Fleury top-shelf to foil the Pens’ efforts.
Other stats to pass along – Marcel Goc and Malkin each had an assist.
Fleury was really up-and-down. Stonewalling some quality opportunities delivered by New York, Fleury just seemed to be all over the place, and had trouble get over to the empty portion of the net. Pittsburgh will need a much better effort from Fleury if they plan on advancing.
Fleury stopped 24-of-27 shots.
Overall, just a very sloppy performance from Pittsburgh though. That, and they drew a goose egg on four power-play opportunities. But it’s the same ol’ story for the Pens – the inability to play a full 60-minutes.
Pittsburgh’s got to act like they want it more, and right now, I’m not seeing it.
Game 2 is Sunday. The game can be seen on the NBC Sports Network, and is set to start at 7:30 p.m.