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Insider Only Game 2 Analysis: Rangers turn the tables on the Penguins

Penguins – Rangers Game 2 Analysis

If you are looking for low hanging fruit to craft an explanation as to why the Penguins lost 4-2 in game two in their opening round NHL playoff series against the Rangers, the options are many.

Evgeni Malkin returned from injury and threw off the chemistry
Jeff Zatkoff came back to earth
Mike Sullivan should have continued using seven defensemen.

You could advance any one of those three theories.

You could. But you’d be wrong.

Malkin was fine in his return. Especially early. He and Kris Letang nearly scored on a nifty give and go on his second shift. And he made a slick play passing himself the puck off his skate as we have seen him do many times. Plus he had a third period assist on Phil Kessel’s 4-on-3 power play goal.

It’s tough to really pin any of New York’s four goals directly on Zatkoff. And he made a pair of breakaway saves while the game was still scoreless.

You’d be warm on the third one though. Sullivan probably couldn’t have gotten away with playing 7-D with Malkin’s return. But he may have scratched the wrong one. It’s tough to imagine Justin Schultz playing any worse than Olli Maatta and Trevor Daley did.

Daley was on the ice for all four Ranger goals, including a painful giveaway to Chris Kreider right in front of Zatkoff to set up New York’s final score. Maatta was on for two, and he badly misplayed no fewer than three pucks… one of which resulted in Derick Brassard’s marker to make it 2-1 New York in the second.

And those were just a few players and a few plays in a stretch of about eight minutes of collective awful hockey bridging the second and third periods that allowed this series to be tied up heading to Manhattan for game three on Tuesday.

“We had a tough stretch. And that was the big difference in the game,” said defenseman Ben Lovejoy. “You can’t get too low when something bad happens. You have to find a way to get past it. And we spiraled a little bit out of control.”

The Penguins gave away the puck too much. That aforementioned Daley giveaway was the eighth in the first 41 minutes.

“We made some plays that were uncharacteristic of our group tonight. And the Rangers are a good team. They took advantage of a few of them,” explained coach Mike Sullivan. “If we want to win consistently we have to limit those kind of turnovers especially in specific areas of the rink. And there were a few tonight where we turned it over in high risk areas and those are tough to defend because they tend to wind up at your net very quickly. ”

The Pens also failed to exit the zone effectively. They had numerous failed clears from their own end in the second period. And the team was out hit.

Significantly. The Rangers held a 22-4 edge in that statistical column after 20 minutes. Then they were up 41-15 after forty, and 57-25 for the game.

As Sullivan and many Penguin players pointed out, the hits differential may be misleading because Pittsburgh tends to use its speed to get to the puck and possess it, thus incurring more his from the opposition. But as Daley pointed out, the problems he saw were where the Penguins actually got hit (i.e. in their own end) and what they did when hits occurred.

“We have to do a better job of absorbing some of those hits, chipping Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

About The Author

Tim Benz

TIOPS Columnist

Tim Benz can be heard on the Pittsburgh Steelers Radio Network post game show and M-F 10-1 on TribLive Radio

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