Pens' defense rises up, blanks Rangers, 3-0
NEW YORK — Craig Adams knows what the Penguins did Thursday night was, in many ways, the easy part.
A 3-0 victory over the New York Rangers was their second this season at Madison Square Garden and fourth in five games away from Consol Energy Center.
Their veteran backup goalie, Tomas Vokoun, told teammates career shutout No. 39 was “the easiest” of his career.
Their club conscience, defenseman Brooks Orpik, noted the absence of “(Rangers') odd-man rushes.”
The MVP, center Evgeni Malkin, joked about relief felt by a power-play attack that was on an 0-for-16 skid until right winger James Neal's early third-period goal.
Their clean-shaven coach — Dan Bylsma will not be trying a goatee again anytime soon — assessed that, aside from better puck possession in the offensive zone, this performance was almost ideal, in terms of team defense.
Now, if only the Penguins could carry this over at home, where they are 0-2.
“It's always hard when you're working with a big group to get that rhythm,” Adams said. “Like I said the other day, we're going to keep trying. But this is the type of game we need to play more often than not.”
The Penguins (4-3-0, 8 points) could use a similar effort — and certainly effectiveness equal to this performance — against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday at Consol Energy Center.
They have won six in a row against the Rangers and are on a 9-2-0 run, but…
“This one was pretty good,” Bylsma said.
The Penguins, Bylsma noted, managed to find the offensive zone and avoid careless turnovers.
Quick puck movement led to Malkin's one-timer goal, his second, in the opening period.
The Penguins also drew penalties by playing with speed and tenacity.
One of those power plays even resulted in a goal. That had not happened since the home-opening loss against Toronto on Jan. 25.
Neal, who led the NHL with 18 power-play goals last season, deflected a puck past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist early in the third period to stake the Penguins a 2-0 lead.
“We talked before the game — just get one shot and shoot it,” Malkin said. “On goal is not that bad.”
The Penguins went only 1 for 6 with the advantage, but their penalty kill was 0 for 4.
The Rangers (3-4-0, 6 points) hit two posts when down by those couple of goals, and the breakaway goal scored by Penguins rookie defenseman Simon Despres did not count as a short-handed tally.
It was the technical equivalent, though.
A sharp pass from right winger Pascal Dupuis found Despres, who had just stepped out of the penalty box with about 10 minutes left in regulation. He cradled the pass and deftly converted against Lundqvist, who had surrendered two or fewer goals in three previous games.
“I was imagining it in the penalty box,” Despres said of his breakaway, which he turned into a second-ever goal. “That's the first time in my career. I've been imagining it all my life.”
Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh said his club “kind of played too tentative.”
Vokoun, who stopped 28 shots, preferred to view the Rangers' struggles a result of the Penguins' commitment to defense.
“All goalies in the NHL are good enough to make saves when you don't have to go east-west and don't have to battle traffic,” Vokoun said. “It was a great game by my teammates. I obviously benefitted from that.”
Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.
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