Coming off a big win in game two at Pittsburgh and great start to game three, the inability to keep the momentum going into the third period is what cost the Rangers a win. After nearly two periods of great hockey by both teams, the Rangers gradually let the game slip away from them. The Pens defense, especially in the neutral zone, came up big for them and they allowed only 17 shots on goal the entire game. Henrik Lundqvist had another strong game in net, but could not make up for the lack of offense.
Having only 17 shots on goal in an entire playoff hockey game is just embarrassing. The Rangers did nothing to make back-up goaltender Matt Murray feel uncomfortable. It’s only a matter of time before Marc-Andre Fluery comes back, so taking advantage of opportunities like an unexperienced goaltender is key if you want to win.
During the early stages of the game, the Rangers had a clear advantage in the Penguins’ zone. Halfway through the first period, it looked as if the Rangers were going to take an early 1-0 lead after Kreider beat Murray near-side, something that would’ve been well deserved. But the Penguins challenged the goal for offsides, and after review it was ruled that J.T. Miller was offsides when the puck crossed the blue line.
The no-goal call had a visible effect on the Rangers’ momentum as the first period came to a close. Thanks to a great play by Kevin Klein that knocked the puck loose in the defensive zone, Nash was able to motor in on a partial breakaway and plant an absolute snipe right under the crossbar to make it 1-0 game.
Throughout the rest of the second period the Rangers seemed to control most of the game. They played well defensively, blocking the shooting lanes and keeping the Penguins to the outside. Late in the period Marc Staal was called for a hooking penalty on Carl Hagelin. The Pens didn’t waste anytime to capitalize on their man-up opportunity. Kessel’s shot was deflected in by Crosby to tie the game at 1-1 late in the second.
The third period is where the Rangers saw the most drastic decline in momentum. 4:16 into the period, Cullen scored on a breakaway after Boyle and Yandle collided at the blue line. The Rangers never fully recovered from this goal and it just got worse from there.
Following the goal that put Pens up 2-1, the Penguins completely shut down the Rangers in the neutral zone, and gave them absolutely no opportunity to create a scoring chance while entering the offensive zone. The Rangers attempted to make one final push after pulling Lundqvist, but they were unable to get any good shots on net. Letang was able to seal the deal with the empty net goal with less than 15 seconds remaining, and gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead in the series.
The Rangers will face the Penguins again for Game 4 of the series on Thursday night at MSG. If the Rangers can get another good start to the game and keep the momentum throughout, then they have a great shot at winning.
Let’s Go Rangers!!!