Pittsburgh Penguins Blanked By New York Rangers

Jan 2, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) looks on against the New York Islanders during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 2, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) looks on against the New York Islanders during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Penguins were shut out 3-0 by their divisional rivals, the New York Rangers, as captain Sidney Crosby’s 11-game point streak came to a bitter end.

The last time the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers met, it was the fifth and final game of their first-round playoff series. The Rangers’ Carl Hagelin scored the game-winning goal to knock the Penguins out of the playoffs – the second straight year the Rangers had earned that dubious honor.

This time, Hagelin was wearing a much nicer sweater.

It’s hard to believe, but tonight marked the first time the Penguins and Rangers met this season. The rivalry is still fierce as ever, though, as evidenced by the hard hits thrown by both sides throughout the game.

Despite missing key players Ryan McDonagh (concussion) and Rick Nash (bone bruise), the Rangers came out swinging. In his pre-game interview, the Penguins’ Brian Dumoulin emphasized the importance of a strong start. However, the “blueshirts” had other plans.

Kris Letang took a high-sticking penalty about a third of the way into the first period, and shortly after the Penguins killed it off the Rangers scored. Kevin Hayes scored the first of the game on essentially an empty net, and was assisted by former Penguin Tanner Glass as well as Keith Yandle.

This is only Glass’s second assist of the season – but then again, he was never highly touted for his scoring abilities.

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The Rangers defense has been a major question for much of this season, especially aging defensemen Dan Boyle, Dan Girardi, and even Marc Staal. There were plenty of turnovers during the game, but none were ever converted on. Despite the frequent turnovers, the Rangers still dictated much of the first period with major possession time.

Dylan McIlrath soon took a penalty for interference, but despite a sharp Penguins powerplay they stayed scoreless. Evgeni Malkin, the Pens’ leading powerplay goal scorer, is still out of the lineup with a nagging lower-body injury.

Sidney Crosby came into tonight’s game riding an eleven-game point streak, and not only went without a point but without even a shot. Despite that, he had the best opportunity for a goal early on and was – as always – an effective presence on the ice.

The Pens led the period in shots, but Henrik Lundqvist proved why he too is one of the best players in the world. This hasn’t been his best season, but the Swede has still been a very solid backstop.

The Rangers post a formidable 15-2-2 record when leading after the first period.

Penguins rookie Conor Sheary had an amazing chance early in the second, splitting the defense and moving in on Lundqvist alone, but he hit the post instead of twine. Later, Bryan Rust and Tom Kuhnhackl had a two-on-one chance, but Kuhnhackl missed the net.

Defenseman Trevor Daley was not on the Penguins’ bench to begin the second period after crashing hard into the net in the previous period, and did not return to the game later. The long list of beleaguered Penguins will add another name if he proves to be injured severely.

Despite an advantage in shots on goal and scoring opportunities for the Pens, the scoreboard remained unchanged after forty minutes.

The game started to slip away from the Penguins in the third period. Veteran Dominic Moore sniped one to put the Rangers up 2-0.

Moore and Chris Kreider had a two-on-one against Derrick Pouliot, who managed to take away the passing lane but couldn’t do anything to stop Moore’s rocket. Pouliot was trying to cover for Dumoulin, whose mistake in the other zone allowed for Derek Stepan to snatch up the puck and send it to Moore.

Dumoulin, continuing his rough night, also high-sticked his teammate Patric Hornqvist, which really is all you need to know about how this game went for the players in black and gold. 

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The Penguins got another big chance as Kreider got sent to the penalty box for interference, but again the powerplay failed to convert. Though the Penguins have had some high-scoring games recently with Malkin out of the lineup, his absence was sorely felt tonight.

Head coach Mike Sullivan tried to shuffle the lines up to get a desperation goal (or two), moving Phil Kessel up to the top line with Crosby and Chris Kunitz, but to no avail.

Jesper Fast put the final nail in the coffin with an empty-net goal, shot just as Letang slammed him into the boards.

The Penguins took an astronomical number of shot attempts but luck was not on their side. Between Lundqvist’s 33 saves and shots repeatedly ringing off the goalposts, the Pens could just not find the back of the net.

The Rangers now have won four straight, putting them six points ahead of the Penguins, whose home winning streak is no more.

The Penguins look to rebound against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night.