Crosby comes to life as Pens even series with Rangers

Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins warms up before Game Two of the Second Round of the 2014...

Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins warms up before Game Two of the Second Round of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs against the New York Rangers on May 4, 2014 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images/AFP)

Terry Koshan, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:16 PM ET

PITTSBURGH - PITTSBURGH — There’s no stat for setting the tone in a playoff game.

Had it existed, Sidney Crosby would have dominated the scoresheet on Sunday night at the Consol Energy Center.

New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist stymied Crosby at every turn, making six saves on the Pittsburgh Penguins superstar in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinal.

Despite making 32 saves overall, Lundqvist wasn’t perfect, allowing goals from Kris Letang and Jussi Jokinen. But the Rangers couldn’t beat Marc-Andre Fleury on 22 shots, and the result was a 3-0 victory for Pittsburgh.

The best-of-seven series is tied 1-1 with Game 3 in New York on Monday night.

Fleury’s shutout was his seventh career in the playoffs.

Crosby has gone 13 playoff games without a goal, the longest skid of his National Hockey League career.

Letang scored his second goal of the post-season for the Penguins midway through the second period. Jokinen scored on a rebound during a Penguins power play with less than four minutes to play, and Evgeni Malkin scored into an empty net.

This game would have been a Penguins win by several goals had Lundqvist not been excellent from start to finish. Among his highlight-reel stops were a breakaway stop on Chris Kunitz, and a stick save on Brandon Sutter from the slot.

Crosby made something happen on just about every shift, enjoying a reunion on a line with Malkin and Kunitz. It’s the kind of dominant hockey fans have come to expect from Crosby, never mind that he did not have a point.

The game was the 76th in the playoffs in a Rangers uniform for Lundqvist. That tied him with Mike Richter for the most in Rangers franchise history by a goaltender, a mark Lundqvist will have to himself when the puck drops on Monday night.

Letang put his name in the Penguins’ playoff record books when he scored at 10:26 of the second period. Letang’s centring pass to Kunitz went off the stick of a diving Dan Girardi and into the Rangers net past Lundqvist. It was the 15th playoff goal of Letang’s NHL career, tying him with Larry Murphy for the Pittsburgh franchise lead among defencemen.

The goal had been awarded to Kunitz, but replays made it clear he did not get a piece of the puck after Girardi did.

The Rangers had a few good opportunities, but Fleury was sharp. He stopped a spinaround attempt by Rick Nash from the slot, but overall was not as busy as Lundqvist. Nash, for whom scoring is not a problem during the regular season, has not scored a goal in nine playoff games this spring, and has just two in 25 career post-season games.

The laid-back native of Brampton, Ont., nodded when he was asked on Sunday morning about putting pressure on himself to be more productive.

“For sure,” Nash said. “It’s disappointing that I can’t help the team win. If you are not scoring goals, you help in other ways. But it is definitely frustrating not being able to score.”

Crosby had a couple of good scoring chances in the final minute of the first period. He turned Rangers defenceman Ryan McDonagh around and had a clear shot at Lundqvist, but shot high. Seconds later, a Crosby backhand was stopped by Lundqvist, but the crowd showed its support for No. 87 with a long burst of applause as the period ended.

“I would like to be fighting it more, to be honest with you,” Crosby said in the morning when he was asked if had been fighting the puck. “I would like to make sure I possess it a little more and create more. Playoffs are tight, but you have to find ways to get the puck and make sure you create stuff.

“Once I get out there, I don’t think about it a whole lot. I think about trying to create. I think sometimes you can kind of over-think it.”

There was little flow in the opening 20 minutes, as referees Eric Furlatt and Wes McCauley called six minors. The Rangers failed to score on three power plays, running their string of futility to 28 man-advantages without a goal. Coach Alain Vigneault had spoken of the desire to at least see some momentum build off power plays if the Rangers weren’t going to score on them, but that didn’t occur.

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/koshtorontosun

 


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