48° Good Morning
48° Good Morning

No big Game 2 changes for Rangers, Penguins

Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates in

Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates in the first period against Rick Nash of the New York Rangers during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, April 16, 2015. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

You'll see the same lineups for the Rangers and Penguins in Game 2 of the best-of-seven first-round series Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

After winning the first game 2-1 on Thursday, the Rangers are hoping for a similar result. The Penguins dearly want to avoid going home to Pittsburgh in a 2-0 hole for Games 3 and 4 next week.

Last May 4, the Rangers were blanked 3-0 by Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 2 in the second-round series in Pittsburgh, after winning 3-2 in overtime of Game 1. They then rode the emotional tide of Martin St. Louis' play, following the sudden death of his mother, to overcome a 3-1 deficit to advance in seven games.

According to, a sports analytical website, when an NHL team in a best-of-seven series takes the first two games, they win the series 85.9 percent of the time. Last year, the only time the Rangers were up 2-0, they beat the Canadiens, behind Henrik Lundqvist, in six games in the Eastern Conference Final.

In 2009, the Rangers led the Capitals 2-0, but lost in seven games in the first round. In 2007, they led Atlanta 2-0 and swept the first round series, and in 2008, were up 2-0 on the Devils and won that first round series in five games.

The Rangers surely want to play more of a 60-minute game than on Thursday, when they jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Derick Brassard's goal at 28 seconds and extended the advantage late in the first period on Ryan McDonagh's power-play goal.

The Penguins steadied themselves in the second and third periods and forced turnovers to put the outcome in doubt until the final seconds.

Alain Vigneault, who guided the Rangers to a 53-22-7 record and the Presidents' Trophy, wanted more bodies screening Fleury (36 saves) on Saturday and fewer turnovers.

"There's no doubt that in the last game we had a lot of good looks," (in 38 shots), Vigneault said, "but some of those looks would be better if we had a better net presence and a little more traffic. It's always more challenging for a goaltender, and it's definitely one of the things we talked about."

One thing to watch: Penguins coach Mike Johnston might pair centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin on a line to generate some more offense. The Penguins had 25 shots on Lundqvist, and Johnston wants that number in the 35 range.

The experience of playing one game against the up-tempo style of the Rangers should benefit the younger Penguins. "We kind of saw what their tendencies were, that definitely helps a lot," said defenseman Ian Cole. "We need to be more aggressive, have that mindset, but not take as many penalties."

To tie the series, winger Patric Hornqvist said the Penguins, who made the playoffs with a final day win over the Buffalo Sabres, "need to take the puck to the net every time we get over the blue line and we have to get our forecheck going. We can't wait for them to make plays."

Notes: Each team held skates at the Garden on Saturday morning, and injured Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein, out since March 11 with a broken left forearm, skated in the optional again and took shots, but Vigneault was not sure whether he would practice for the first time with the team on Sunday.

The Penguins continue to have more serious injury issues on defense. Christian Ehrhoff and Derrick Pouliot took part in a full skate, but neither will play in Game 2, although Pouliot appears close to returning. Another regular blueliner, Kris Letang, is out for the season.

Puck drop is scheduled at 8:25 p.m. because the NHL scheduled the draft lottery before the game.


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

New York Sports