Staal powers Pens to 2-0 victory over Rangers

| Monday, April 28, 2008

They would rather have played the majority of the final six minutes with a man-advantage.

They surely would have taken their chances at even-strength.

But the Penguins were shorthanded for four of the final 6:06 in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the New York Rangers on Sunday - and that was no big deal.

"You get confidence by killing (penalties) ... and that's what we're doing right now," forward Max Talbot said. "Penalty killing is a lot about confidence, and right now, we're on the top of our game."

They are on top of the Rangers, too.

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury turned aside 26 shots for his second shutout in four playoff games at Mellon Arena, and the Penguins stoned the Rangers on six power-play chances in a 2-0 victory.

The Penguins lead the best-of-seven series, 2-0, with Game 3 in New York on Tuesday.

Turnabout was fair play for the Rangers, who were awarded two late advantage opportunities to make up for center Jordan Staal's power-play goal, which gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead at 13:55 of the second period.

New York coach Tom Renney was critical Friday after Game 1, when Rangers center Martin Straka was assessed an interference penalty to set up a power-play chance that resulted in center Evgeni Malkin's late winning goal.

The Rangers received only three power plays in the series opener. They had that many after the opening 20 minutes yesterday.

Had they placed a puck behind Fleury during 5:28 of first-period power-play time, perhaps they could have rode three-time Vezina finalist Henrik Lundqvist to a victory.

Instead, the Rangers trailed by a goal in the third period, when defenseman Hal Gill was penalized at 17:38 for a cross check on New York left wing Sean Avery. They pulled Lundqvist midway through the power play to create a 6-on-four advantage.

Gill's penalty was called almost four minutes after right wing Petr Sykora entered the box for a high stick at 13:54.

The Rangers registered only three shots on their late power plays and barely a pulse after right wing Adam Hall's clearing attempt from the Penguins' zone ricocheted off the boards into an empty net with 17 seconds remaining.

"It's a credit to some of the guys, from the coaches right on down," Hall said of his club's penalty-kill success. "It's something we've tried to improve."

Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential aspirations have not improved as much since Super Tuesday as the Penguins have as penalty killers dating to the acquisition of Gill and forwards Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis at the NHL trade deadline.

By no coincidence, each of those players have become key penalty-kill components.

The Penguins have allowed only 14 power-play goals on 94 chances since Feb. 26, a kill-rate of 85.1 percent. They have killed 20-of-22 advantages in the playoffs - a 90.9 percentage that rates behind only Detroit's 93.6.

Ottawa and Anaheim reached the Stanley Cup final in 2007 with respective kill rates of 87.9 and 86.8. The Penguins, eliminated by the Senators in five opening-round games last season, killed only 18-of-24 Senators' power plays in that series.

Their kill-rate was 80.4 before the deadline deals.

The Penguins are a killing machine, and now they are two victories from playing Grim Reaper to the Rangers.

"You have to make sure you can do the job," coach Michel Therrien said. "We've been better as the year went on. We added some new guys, and that certainly helps. But we're just doing what we've always been capable of on the penalty kill."

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