The Pens defeated the Rangers on Tuesday evening, bringing Marc-Andre Fleury to 22 career shutouts. His next shutout will place him above Tom Barrasso in all time franchise shutouts for a goalie. The win also salvaged the Pens chances of winning the top spot in the Atlantic Division at the end of the season.
The game in Philadelphia on Saturday was about an exciting as they come, albeit dramatic with the refs swallowing their whistles for half the game and making blatant incorrect calls the other half on both teams.
Things are clicking for the Pens right now against the East’s top teams. While the game in Buffalo on Sunday left something to be desired, to say the least, Saturday and Tuesday were two of the most hard-fought efforts to pack in a win that we have seen from the Pens all season.
The atmosphere at Consol last evening was almost comparable to that of a playoff game. The crowd was engaged, and with a shift in the 1st period that seemed to last forever as the Pens controlled the puck, firing infinite shots at Henrik Lundqvist, who wouldn’t be on their feet? A repeat performance came again late in the 3rd period. It was hockey at its finest. They played all 60 minutes.
The Rangers had great presence in front of the net, helping protect Lundqvist from giving up more than the break -away goal scored by Evgeni Malkin and the gorgeous goal from the point by Steve Sullivan that sailed through heavy traffic to find the back of the net. Malkin didn’t get a note before the game that Lundqvist is one of the best out there against breakaways. Geno don’t care. Geno scores goals.
Fleury was magnificent. He played a completely flawless game. Known for his poke check, if he continues to work the glove side like he did last night, the playoffs will be a cake walk for him. Fans have been unnecessarily harsh regarding Fleury’s play this season. Even in wins, anything short of a shutout has been unacceptable to many Pens fans. The silence from Fleury critics was deafening last night (and today, as some of his most poignant critics sit near me at work). This was Fleury’s 31st win and third shut out this season.
The true surprise against the Rangers were performances by Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin. Two defensemen whom have struggled this season played one of the best games we have seen from either of them in quite some time. Head Coach Dan Bylsma has separated the pair, placing Martin with Kris Letang in Brooks Orpik’s absence and Z with Deryk Engelland. Mart and Letang had a few real nice shifts together. We can only hope they continue to improve.
Jordan Staal played a flawless game last night. He registered four shots on goal. He and Geno are playing some of the best hockey of their careers right now. Complete beast mode for them both.
The only questionable appearance last night was from Eric Tangradi, whom I honestly didn’t even notice all night. This isn’t good, especially since I was at the game. He got pushed around a bit, as usual. Most of the game though, he must have been sporting Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak. Was not on my radar and in a game with this much action and such a fast pace, he had ample opportunity to make a name for himself. For as long as the Pens controlled the puck through all three periods, he failed to register even 1 shot on goal.
Other surprise of the night? Ben Lovejoy had 4 shots on goal. Get it, Benny.
Best game of the season to see live. The Pens are playing their game right now. The rest of the league better watch out.