Pittsburgh 2 – New York Rangers 0
The Pittsburgh Penguins (34-21-5, 73 pts) played locked down defensive hockey and Marc Andre Fleury recorded his 22nd career shutout, leading the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 2-0 win over the New York Rangers (38-15-5, 81 pts) on Tuesday night at the Consol Energy Center.
“Big game for us defending wise, goaltender wise, ” head coach Dan Bylsma said on the win.
Fleury made 27 saves for his 31st victory of the season and 12th win in his last 15 stars. His 22 career shutouts tie Tom Barrasso’s franchise record.
“I was really hoping to get the shutout for him, ” Bylsma said. “He’s been so big for us, “
Evgeni Malkin (33) had a goal and an assist, and Steve Sullivan (11) scored a power play goal for the Penguins who are now 8 points behind the Eastern Conference leading Rangers.
“That was a big point, ” Marc Andre Fleury said. “Still want to catch them to win the division.”
“They are the best team in the East by a wide margin, ” Bylsma said about the Rangers, when asked about the Penguins success of late against winning teams.
The Penguins who were coming off an embarrassing 6-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, put together one of their most complete games of the season.
“I think that was our first complete 60 minute game in a long-time, ” winger Steve Sullivan said. “We played a complete game from everybody.”
A key against the Rangers (10-14-3 when opponent scores first) is getting the first goal and Evgeni Malkin lit the lamp first, with a breakaway goal against Henrik Lundqvist, coming down the left side and going to the backhand, showing great patience for his 33rd goal of the season at 1:05 of the second period.
Pittsburgh then took a 2-0 lead mid-way through the second period on Steve Sullivan’s power play goal at 11:14 of the period. The goal was Sullivan’s 11th of the season.
Malkin who recorded points 72 and 73 on the season, picked up his 400th career assist on Sullivan’s power play marker.
— Pittsburgh was dominant from a zone presence standpoint and the Penguins felt their play in the first period wore out the Rangers in the second and third period. “We laid the ground work in the first period for the second and third, ” Sullivan said.
— With Brooks Orpik out of the lineup, a concern defensively for the Penguins coming into tonight’s game was how well they were going to defend in the crease area and against the Rangers cycle. Tonight it was a strength for the Penguins who didn’t let the Rangers be factors from a net-front presence.
— Head coach Dan Bylsmawas extremely pleased with the work of his blueline who got strong games from the likes of Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek. Without Brooks Orpik, the team used Paul Martin and Kris Letang as their top pairing. “I thought our defense played really well, ” Bylsma said. “Thought pair of Martin and Letang played really well.”… Z doesn’t play off-side very often andplaying with Engelland, very strong game from those guys.””Really happy to see how our D play together as a unit.”
— The Penguins offensively did an excellent job of getting behind the Rangers D. The Rangers uncharacteristicly got caught with their D-men being a little too aggressive in the neutral zone and offensive zone on the rush. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh was effective at being aggressive at their own blueline, not backing in defensively and pressuring the Rangers which helped the Penguins be a factor in pushing the play the other way. An example of that was on Malkin’s goal when the Penguins closed in on Michael Del Zotto who turned the puck over in the Penguins zone when pressure, and Malkin came in all alone against Lundqvist.
— Steve Sullivan scored his first power play goal in 24 games but he might have had his best game at even strength all season, an area he hasn’t brought much to the tableÂ this season.Â Sullivan had great command of the puck attacking the offensive zone and he was very strong on his skates.
— The healthy scratch of Dustin Jeffrey has been odd to many and Eric Tangradi didn’t see the ice much but he did do some good things on the forecheck. Overall, he was scoreless and had just 5:39 of ice time, playing a 4th line role. Richard Park also saw limited ice time, seeing 5:54 of ice time.
NOTES: The Penguins are 19-0-2 when leading after two periods……The win at home was Pittsburgh’s first against the Rangers since Nov. 28, 2009…..Pittsburgh scratched Cal O’Reilly, Dustin Jeffrey, Brent Johnson and Brooks Orpik….Columbus Blue Jackets senior advisor Craig Patrick was among the scouts in attendance tonight….Next Up: 2/25/12 Vs Tampa Bay