Rangers shut out in Game 2 loss to Pittsburgh
PITTSBURGH - It sounds like a broken record, but the power-play failure has become an epidemic for the Rangers, and it cost them a chance to grab a two-games-to-none lead over the Penguins in their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
In four opportunities with the man-advantage Sunday night, including three consecutive chances in the first period, the Rangers couldn't capitalize. That led to a 3-0 loss to Pittsburgh that tied the best-of-seven series at one game apiece.
Some different personnel at the points, including Anton Stralman and Marc Staal, didn't break the drought. The futility stretched their record to 0-for-the-last-29 and 3-for-37 in the postseason.
"Our penalty-killers answered the bell," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "Maybe they set the tone for us . . . Almost to a man, our game was at another level tonight."
"The power play ultimately is my responsibility," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said, "and I have to find the right trigger points to make it work, and I'm going to spend the night trying to figure it out. It didn't score. I've got to do a better job."
Beside the string of power- play disappointments, some other streaks were extended: The Rangers have lost eight straight Game 2s, have let slip 10 straight chances to take a two-game lead in a series and have lost an NHL-record 13 games in a row when they had a chance to increase a series lead.
Henrik Lundqvist, who made 32 saves, was the best Ranger on the ice. His mates appeared sluggish, especially after the first intermission.
No wonder. For 25 years, no other NHL team has played five games in seven days in the playoffs, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Rangers will reach that mark when they face the Penguins in Game 3 Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
Game 4 is Wednesday night, which will extend the Rangers' workload to seven games in 11 days.
But Vigneault refused to accept fatigue as an excuse.
"Did my goaltender look tired?" he asked. "He was on top of his game. He wasn't tired. He's played every minute of these playoffs, so if he's not tired, nobody else should be."
Actually, Cam Talbot played the third period in Game 6 against the Flyers, but Vigneault made his point.
The score would have been more lopsided without Lundqvist's performance Sunday night. The first goal wasn't even scored by a Penguin. Kris Letang's pass to Chris Kunitz, who was driving to the right post, was deflected in by the extended stick of the diving Dan Girardi at 10:26 of the second period. Letang got credit for it.
In one notable example of Lundqvist's night, he stopped a breakaway after Kunitz burst out of the penalty box. Lundqvist faced 16 shots in the second period alone.
"Hank played really well," said Brad Richards, who had six shots. "He gave us a chance to tie it in the third, but we didn't score any goals. Nothing he can do about that."
The score remained 1-0 until Jussi Jokinen scored a power-play goal off a rush at 16:30 of the third period and Evgeni Malkin potted an empty-netter with 53.5 seconds left.
"There's no time to feel sorry for ourselves," Martin St. Louis said. "We want some of those plays back. We'll try and put a better foot forward tomorrow."