Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school sports, hockey and football.
PITTSBURGH - It certainly appeared as if one of the three 12-game streaks coming into Game 2 would not make it to unlucky 13.
There was Sidney Crosby's 12-game playoff goal drought, as well as Rick Nash's 12-gamer in the postseason. And, of course, the Rangers' absurd 12-game losing streak when leading a playoff series.
Amazingly, all three are intact, on to unlucky 13. Truth be told, though, only Crosby was unlucky. Nash and the Rangers earned their continued slides, with all 18 Rangers skaters hanging Henrik Lundqvist out to dry in their 3-0 loss to the Penguins Sunday night.
Lundqvist was the only Ranger who seemed willing or interested in shutting down Crosby, who had six shots on goal -- more than Nash's entire line -- and looked an awful lot like the best player in the world, not the scuffling captain about whom rampant questions and injury speculation had been asked and discussed throughout this city for the past few days.
Crosby put on a show without getting on the scoresheet. Evgeni Malkin ably rode shotgun, throwing his weight around, setting up the first Penguins goal and sealing the win with an empty-net goal. The Penguins' best players were dominant; the Rangers' best were not, with Nash opting to pass rather than shoot on his best chance of the night during one of the Rangers' three power plays in the opening 7:04 of the game.
"I thought almost to a man, our game was at another level tonight," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "Sid was every bit a leader in that regard. We're looking for things on the offensive side, but he was all around it on both ends of the rink."
The Penguins also were physically punishing at every turn, making sure that win or lose, the Rangers would be going home for Monday night's Game 3 loaded up on Advil and ice packs.
"I thought their puck movement was a lot better tonight," Marc Staal said of the Pens. "They broke out of their zone a lot easier than Game 1 and that didn't allow us to gap up on their forwards as well. And when those guys get room, they're going to make plays."
Crosby made a few. He undressed Ryan McDonagh for a chance off the rush that Lundqvist got a piece of in the final minute of the first. There were a couple of patented rushes on Crosby's backhand side, the second of which forced Lundqvist to get his shoulder up in the second to prevent a goal.
And there was Crosby's spin move in tight traffic in the slot in the second, with Lundqvist's left toe keeping him off the scoresheet.
Crosby answered all the questions without scoring a goal.
"To be perfectly honest, I could [not] care less if he scores a goal the entire playoffs," Rob Scuderi said. "As long we win games and win series, it doesn't matter to me. If he's playing well, we're going to benefit from that. We're going to get momentum from that. Even if he doesn't put one past the goalie. As long as we win, I don't think he cares, and neither do we."
The Rangers should care about their 13-game droughts. When Lundqvist plays the way he did Sunday night, the opportunity is there to steal a game. That the Rangers came up so small around their tall-standing goaltender is a bad omen for the busy upcoming week.
Nash managed three shots on goal, but it's hard to remember if they were particularly dangerous (hint: they weren't). His line, with Marty St. Louis and Derek Stepan, could have made a statement on those early power plays. Instead, it was Crosby and his guys who made the statement, even without a goal.
Crosby was unlucky to reach his 13th straight without a goal. The Rangers didn't get a goal either in Game 2. The difference is that Nash and the Rangers very much deserved their 13-game droughts. And the response needs to be strong and immediate.