Defensive zone lapses, an ineffective power play and the inability to get shots through to the goal. The Rangers first game playing their new up tempo attacking style sure looked alot like the games last season in former coach Tom Renney’s defense first system. The Penguins took advantage of the miscues and the Rangers’ aggressiveness to pull out a victory on an emotional night in Pittsburgh.
The Rangers, especially captain Chris Drury, came out strong early in the game establishing a forecheck and keeping the puck in the Penguins zone for long stretches but could not capitalize as most of the play was to the outside. After the Pens got a power play on a tough call against Drury, the Rangers showed once again why they need a crease clearing defenseman as Evgeni Malkin was allowed to camp in front and re-direct a shot from the point past Henrik Lundqvist for the first goal of the contest. Some strong work on the boards by Christopher Higgins led to the Rangers tying the score on a tip in by Chris Drury.
The second period was just a disaster for the Rangers as they couldn’t find any flow to their game. Missed passes, blocked shots and more play on the perimeter allowed the Pens to sit back and wait for the Rangers to make a mistake and when they did it seemed to lead to a parade of odd man rushes for the opposition. Another coverage lapse in front left Sidney Crosby alone to tap in a rebound without even being touched by a Ranger and only moments later Tyler Kennedy deflected Alex Goligoski’s wrister from the point to give the Pens a 2 goal cushion.
The Rangers showed some kick in the third period but once again squandered opportunities on the man advantage and would have been blown out if not for some fantastic saves by Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers power play looked skittish and never really threatened other than a couple of blasts from point man Ales Kotalik that Marc Andre Fleury handled well. Marian Gaborik got the Rangers within a goal by following up the play and ripping one past Fleury but the Rangers would never really threaten again and couldn’t even get the puck near the net late after pulling Lundqvist for the extra attacker. After Wade Redden (who with Michal Roszival did nothing to prove tonight that they have improved over last season) flubbed a keep in attempt with about a minute left , the Pens were able to keep the Rangers at bay and get the victory.
Positives for the Rangers were Chris Drury, who played a strong game and was active on both ends. Henrik Lundqvist surrendered 3 goals but didn’t get much help in front and really kept the team in the game with a great third period. Brandon Dubinsky seemed to click with Gaborik and their line was the Rangers strongest tonight and Marc Staal was solid in his own zone.
Michael Del Zotto had some good moments but for the most part looked timid when going back for the puck in his end and committed a few turnovers. He didn’t fare much better on the power play as the Pens didn’t give him much time or space when he had the puck. Enver Lisin needs to be more agressive when the puck finds his blade and not just spin his wheels waiting for help to come in the offensive zone and Bryan Boyle was pretty much invisible in his first game with the club.
I know it’s only one game but this team didn’t look like it scared the Penguins with it’s offense. Even with the addition of Gaborik, they do not possess a player who can take over the game and draw coverage, giving space to others, like Jaromir Jagr did. They will have to be more agressive and take the puck to the net instead of playing on the perimeter and looking for the perfect opportunity (which led to 23 blocked shots for the Pens tonight). It is a quick turnaround for tomorrow night’s home opener against the Senators but let’s hope Coach Tortorella gets in their ears on the plane ride home and imparts to his team that you can’t play an “up-tempo attacking style” if you don’t attack.