There are nights you would like to forget. Wednesday was one of them for the Rangers and their fans. In all honesty, I didn’t expect too much from the rematch with the Penguins. I figured the home-and-home series would be a split. After they took care of business in Pittsburgh, it was the Pens’ turn. Sidney Crosby and the defending champs turned the tables by gobbling up the Rangers 6-1 on Turkey Eve.
I’ll also be honest about one other thing. I didn’t see the massacre. I was busy working and talking to customers. Some more annoying than others. Your usual shift at the office. Doing customer service is probably the most thankless job. So, if the Rangers couldn’t be bothered to play the second and third period against a team that humiliated them last Spring, why should I care? They’re the ones who at one point gave up 20 consecutive shots and went a ridiculous long stretch without one. For that, they were booed.
Personally, I don’t believe in booing. I believe silence is better. Or leaving early which my family did. They were gone by the 11-minute mark of the third. Could you blame them? After allowing five goals in a lopsided second, the Rangers didn’t bother to show. They continued to get dominated and go without a shot. At least show something.
The irony is I followed the game with Twitter updates. The first period sounded like they played well. Rick Nash scored his ninth from Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello on a power play and they killed off a Ryan McDonagh boarding major that turned into three minutes due to Crosby jumping him after he shoved Connor Sheary from behind. More on that later.
It’s odd the way a game can change. Especially in hockey. Momentum can shift quickly. The Pens woke up and took apart the Rangers with a dominant second outscoring them 5-0. At one point, they scored four goals on seven shots chasing Henrik Lundqvist again at MSG. He must’ve felt like he was having flashbacks of that forgettable first round.
To hear my brother and Dad sum it up, everyone was terrible. It was a total team effort. Scott Wilson rebounded a Phil Kessel shot home to tie it at 2:02. Crosby put the Pens ahead for good 2:56 later when he got his stick on an Ian Cole shot redirecting it by Lundqvist. Kessel and Crosby would score 2:45 apart in the middle of the stanza to send Lundqvist to the exits for Antti Raanta.
I guess Crosby wasn’t about to have another off night. He went without a point and was minus-four in Monday’s 5-2 loss. He’s too great a player. Right now, no one even comes close to the Pittsburgh captain who’s won every significant trophy. With two goals and an assist on Sheary’s goal that greeted Raanta, Crosby is now up to 14 goals and 19 points in 14 games. Connor McDavid may lead the NHL in scoring with 27 points (9-18-27) but when it’s all set and done, Crosby will probably catch and pass him.
He’s back to playing we saw when he had 32 goals and and 34 assists for 66 points in half a season back in ’10-11 before a concussion ended it. There’s no telling what he would’ve wound up with had he stayed healthy. It took a while for him to get all the way back. But at 29, you can safely say he’s back to being the game’s best player. A dominant force.
It doesn’t mean that I have to like him. There was plenty of fuss over McDonagh boarding Sheary with our side wondering why it was a major penalty. From the replays I saw online, I definitely didn’t agree either. My Dad felt it was a four-minute penalty. I thought it could’ve even been two. Regardless, it’s good that Sheary was okay and scored. Of course, he did.
As far as Crosby’s response in which he jumped McDonagh before he could even get up, it was gutless. I get the fact he was defending a teammate. That part is honorable. He is the Pens’ unquestioned leader. But how many times do we have to see an angry Crosby mug guys? It’s unacceptable. If he wanted to fight McDonagh, then let him get up and challenge him. Be a man. That he only got two minutes for that nonsense was typical. There’s nothing else to say.
Predictably, Matt Cullen got into the act adding further insult to injury for the final score after my family left. When it was over, the Pens had outshot the Rangers 38-17. The Rangers remained stuck on 13 shots for a long time. When they finally got a couple of shots on Murray, the got mock cheers from the crowd.
The difference between last Spring and yesterday is no Ranger wanted to write it off.
“Hopefully, everyone holds themselves accountable,” McDonagh told MSG’s John Giannone in the locker room. “If you’re happy or satisfied with whatever you did out there tonight, it’s not where we want to be.”
“We haven’t had many likes games like this for sure and I certainly have confidence in our group that it’s gonna help everybody get back on the same page and certainly it’s good that we get a quick turn around against a divisional opponent [Flyers] on a big stage.”
The Ranger captain brushed away what happened with Crosby. He called it, “part of the game,” while mentioning that maybe it fired up the Pens because of the way they responded. But was sure to note that it shouldn’t be a reason for why they played the way they did.
“We have a Friday afternoon game and right now our response as a team is very important,” coach Alain Vigneault told the media while expressing disappointment after a strong first period.
He had no explanation for why they fell apart and let the game get away. But one thing McDonagh mentioned is they turned pucks over more and that made it easier for the Pens to transition with their speed game.
How bad was it? Fifteen Pittsburgh skaters finished with a plus-rating totaling plus-30 due to all six of their goals coming at even strength. Sixteen Rangers were a minus with only Nash and Michael Grabner not victimized for a goal against.
There was one extended shift where the Derek Stepan line with Brady Skjei and Kevin Klein couldn’t get out of their end. The Pens played keep away which led to some of our skaters being stuck out for over two minutes before Pittsburgh scored.
Even in a game they got blown out in, Oscar Lindberg played only 9:31. During the Rangers team practice this morning, he was replaced by Matt Puempel, who skated with Josh Jooris and Jesper Fast on the fourth line. It looks like the former Ottawa 2012 first round pick will make his Rangers debut on Black Friday against the Flyers.
How lopsided was it? The Pens out-attempted the Rangers 71-43. The next meeting is Dec. 20 in Pittsburgh.