|Jussi Jokinen made Marc-Andre Fleury’s performance stand up with the shootout winner.
Copyright Getty Images/by Gene J. Puskar
Simply put, Marc-Andre Fleury prevented the Rangers from a sweep of the home-and-home. It was his clutch goaltending that was the difference in the Pens’ 2-1 shootout win in the Steel City. He made 34 saves to out-duel Henrik Lundqvist, who was almost as good finishing with 26 stops. Again, Hank allowed two-or-less. But this time, got victimized in the skill competition.
The Pens had shootout ace Jussi Jokinen and we didn’t. Jokinen, who also got their only goal 30 seconds into the third- beat Lundqvist in the first round of the shootout. He went top shelf on Hank. Fleury made it stand up by denying Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Callahan. Fleury has done this before to us. He made several ridiculous glove saves including committing highway robbery on Derek Stepan, who looked to the heavens. It was that kind of night.
Encouraging is that our team didn’t waste a great effort. Instead, they found a way to solve Fleury thanks to Nash’s 14th off a Stepan face off win. A rarity. There was a second left on a power play. Stepan had been brutal in the face off circle, losing most to Jokinen, who was picked up by Ray Shero at the deadline. Despite losing 21-of-28 overall, Stepan won the crucial one to Nash, whose one-timer squeezed through Fleury to salvage a point with 4:49 remaining in regulation.
The goal followed an odd sequence where the Rangers felt they had a goal. Derick Brassard centered a puck into a sliding Fleury, who fell backwards into the net. But replays proved inconclusive. So, it was correctly ruled ‘No Goal.’ Following the delay, they showed some character coming back to tie the game. It would’ve sucked not to come out with something. They dominated most of the third after the Pens swarmed Lundqvist the first two minutes. Jokinen got his first as a Pen when he buried a Chris Kunitz pass past Hank into the top of the net. Pascal Dupuis drew the secondary assist.
Lundqvist prevented any further damage. From there, our team was relentless. If not for some outstanding stops from Fleury, they pull it out. They out-shot the Pens 14-4 in what was a nasty third where each old Patrick rival never backed down. As usual, Pittsburgh played with edge following Wednesday’s embarrassment. They mugged our guys and took swings. Particularly Matt Cooke, who slashed Lundqvist during our power play. Cooke was his usual whiny self.
There was also a sequence where Evgeni Malkin took a chop at one of our guys, leading to Mike Del Zotto throwing him down. Speaking of which, Del Zotto got away with an elbow that knocked out James Neal. I don’t think it was intentional. He just got his elbow up with Neal fighting for a loose puck behind the net. It wasn’t the first instance that the refs missed a call. Brooks Orpik wrestled Nash down. It was nasty. The teams dislike each other and have as much disdain as the fans over on Twitter. I’ll make no qualms about it. I want the Pens in the first round. I would love nothing better to send this team to the golf course.
For one night, their goalie was the difference. The Rangers won’t see the Penguins again unless they meet in the playoffs. The one point earned tied them with the Islanders for seventh with 40 points. By virtue of one less game played, our team is seventh while the Islanders are eighth. The Devils have 39 and are ninth. Winnipeg is 10th with 38 and the Flyers are 11th with 37. It’s going to be a photo finish.
NY Puck 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Jussi Jokinen, Pit (first goal as a Pen, shootout winner)
2nd Star-Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (26 saves, 2/3 in shootout)
1st Star-Marc-Andre Fleury, Pit (34 saves incl. 3/3 in shootout)