When: November 29, 2010 | Where: Madison Square Garden
The Pens put a six-game winning streak on the line Monday night in New York as they take on the division rival Rangers at MSG. Pittsburgh can avenge their last losing effort, a 3-2 overtime loss to the Rangers in Pittsburgh, with the win.
Pittsburgh’s winning ways are old news, as the team has galvanized around the goaltending of Marc-Andre Fleury and the scoring streak of Captain Sidney Crosby. New York is a surprising contender thus far, riding the shoulders of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to a 14-10-1 record through 25 games.
The Rangers are 7-3-0 in their last ten games and have moved into a tie for 5th in the Eastern Conference (29 pts., tied with Tampa Bay). Pittsburgh is 8-1-1 in its last ten, gaining a point in every game since the loss to Boston and nipping at the heels of the Flyers and Capitals for first place in the conference.
The emergence of young players like Marc Staal, Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky has kept the Rangers in the mix. New York is also getting production from former Penguins Erik Christensen and Michal Roszival.
Aside from Crosby, Pittsburgh has markedly improved its defense since the beginning of the season, holding 5 of its last 6 opponents to two goals or fewer, allowing two goals in their last three games.
15 November 2010
Rangers win 3-2 (OT)
Goals: Cooke, Kunitz
Goalie: Marc-Andre Fleury (OTL)
With a win on Monday, Pittsburgh will move into a virtual tie with the Flyers for first in the Atlantic. No team has been hotter than Pittsburgh over the last two weeks.
15-8-2, 32 pts.
2nd Atlantic, 4th East
7-5-1 Home, 8-3-1 Road
8-1-1 Last 10
Pittsburgh has owned the Rangers since the lockout. Pittsburgh eliminated the Rangers in the 2007-08 Eastern Conference Semifinals, and has posted points in each of their last ten games against New York (8-0-2). Since the lockout, Pittsburgh is 17-5-8 against New York.
Crosby now has earned 25 points during his 12-game point streak, taking the scoring lead from Steven Stamkos in the process. The penalty kill is first in the NHL and have beaten 29 straight penalties. During their winning streak, Pittsburgh is 54-for-56 on the PK. Overall, the PK sits at 90.2 percent.
The biggest reason for the Pens resurgence must be the resurgence of Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury is now 8-6-1, 7-0-1 to coincide with the winning streak, with a 2.57 GAA and .905 save percentage. In his last eight starts, Fleury has lopped a full point off his GAA and improved his save percentage by .45 points, earning his first shutout of the season in the process.
The Pens have been dominant on the road, posting a record of 8-3-1 away from the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins were a perfect 3-0 in MSG last season.
Henrik Lundqvist is carrying the Rangers again, posting a 2.61 – .919 mark on the way to a 9-8-1 record. Perhaps surprisingly, backup Martin Biron has been even better, a 2.15 – .917 mark with a 5-2-0 record in 8 appearances.
14-10-1, 29 pts.
3rd Atlantic, t-5th East
5-6-1 Home, 9-4-0 Road
7-3-0 Last 10
The Rangers, 7-3-0 in their last ten, have outscored opponents 31-23 in that stretch. New York is playing a solid brand of hockey up and down the lineup. With players such as Marian Gaborik, Chris Drury and Vinny Prospal missing significant time due to injury and illness, the Rangers’ record might be the coming together of a young team under coach John Tortorella’s system.
Like the Penguins, New York is getting significant production from its blueline. Dan Girardi has chipped in 13 points, youngsters Marc Staal and Michael Del Zotto have played well, and Michal Roszival returned Saturday from an extended absence.
In their last four games, New York has killed 38-of-42 penalties against and has at least one man-advantage marker in each of those games. They’ve also got five shorthanded goals, one of which against Pittsburgh during the Nov. 15 meeting.
Sidney Crosby continues his assault on the NHL, leading the Pens with 18 goals, 22 assistsm 40 points and 7 power play goals. Evgeni Malkin leads the Pens with 109 shots, scoring a power play goal in Friday’s game against the Senators.
Kris Letang leads all Pens defensemen with 22 points, gaining 3 assists Saturday. Letang also leads the team with a plus-11 rating. Only four Penguins regulars are a minus.
Brent Johnson picked up another win Saturday, moving his overall mark to 7-2-1 (2.15 – .917). Marc-Andre Fleury has posted a 1.58 GAA in his last five starts, all Penguins victories.
Brandon Dubinsky leads the Rangers with 12 goals and 20 points. Ryan Callahan leads the club in assists (12) and shots on goal (71). Sean Avery leads the Rangers in PIM (84). While earning nearly an hour and a half of penalty time, Avery has only one goal this season.
As mentioned, Lundqvist and Biron have both performed well, with Lundqvist taking the majority of starts. Lundqvist has stopped 69 of the last 70 shots he’s faced, and has three shutouts in 18 starts.
Pittsburgh’s defense is starting to suffocate opponents and take over games. The Penguins are 5th in the NHL in goals against after hovering around 15th place just two weeks ago (2.5 goals against per game). The penalty kill is first overall at 90.02 percent success.
Pittsburgh is 10th in goals per game (3.0), and the power play has improved to 16th overall (16.4 percent) with five power play markers in the last three games. The formation that puts Paul Martin on the backend next to Kris Letang has shown immediate chemistry.
For their success, the Rangers are hovering around the middle of the NHL pack is most major stats. New York is 13th in goals (2.9), 11th in goals against (2.6), 17th on the power play (16.3 percent) and 18th on the PK (82.7 percent).
Jordan Staal continues inching toward a season debut, expecting to return in 2-3 weeks.
Arron Asham is sidelined for tonight’s game due to an illness.
Although he wouldn’t be in the lineup even if healthy, the struggling Mike Comrie is nursuing a groin injury and is expected to be sidelined for 7-to-10 days. The injury flared up during last Thursday’s practice.
The Rangers have been banged up. The top line of Gaborik, Drury and Prospal has been out for some time. Gaborik missed his last game with an illness, and will be a game-time decision for Monday’s meeting.
Drury is set to return in 1-2 weeks (broken finger). Prospal is out with a knee injury (6-8 weeks). Enforcer Derek Boogard is out with a shoulder injury.
Kunitz – Crosby – Dupuis
Cooke – Talbot – Malkin
Conner – Letestu – Kennedy
Rupp – Adams – Godard
Orpik – Letang
Martin – Michalek
Goligoski – Engelland
Starting Goaltender: Marc-Andre Fleury
Scratches: Mike Comrie, Arron Asham, Ben Lovejoy
Comments have been disabled for this post.