Any optimism the New York Rangers may have taken from their Game 1 overtime victory over Pittsburgh is likely all gone now.
After tying the series at one win apiece, the Penguins and Rangers traveled east to Manhattan to continue it at the Blueshirts’ residence.
But it was Pittsburgh who made themselves right at home.
Sidney Crosby opened the scoring in the 2nd with his first playoff goal. Later that same period Pittsburgh’s Jussi Jokinen, freshly sprung from the penalty box, accepted a poor Mats Zuccarello pass intended for teammate Brad Richards, went in on a clean breakaway, and beat Henrik Lundqvist to extend the lead to 2-0.
That goal would hold up, and prove to create the final score at the game’s conclusion.
Oft-maligned Penguin netminder Marc-Andre Fleury, who has at times been thought to be the weak link in Pittsburgh’s Stanley Cup armor, has now pitched two straight shutouts.
In doing so Fleury has silenced those critics of his playoff goaltending who, to be completely fair, include this writer.
Having quieted both them and me with his play, he has his team standing two victories away from the Eastern Conference Finals.
On this night #29 stopped every puck that came his way; which included thwarting the Rangers on a four-minute power play that straddled the first two periods.
With the Penguins powerful offense, it’s probably also fair to say that Lunqvist is the great equalizer in this series. However if Fleury can maintain his current level of play, he will equalize that equalizer, and perhaps find himself and his teammates in Round 3.
Although you never know. Years ago someone clearly smarter than me once said: ”That’s why they play the games.”
Game 4 of these Eastern Conference Semi-Finals will be played Wednesday at Madison Square Garden (7:30p.m. EST)