Sidney Crosby ends goal drought as Penguins blank Rangers again

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby skates in on a breakaway past Rangers defenceman Marc Staal and...

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby skates in on a breakaway past Rangers defenceman Marc Staal and scores during second period action of Game 3 of their second round playoff series in New York on Monday, May 5, 2014. (Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)

Terry Koshan, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:18 PM ET

NEW YORK - Dan Bylsma’s words rung true on Monday night.

The coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, asked yet again a couple of hours before Game 3 against the New York Rangers about Sidney Crosby’s lack of goals, offered a fearless prediction to a roomful of reporters.

“Eventually, you’re going to see him get a goal,” Bylsma said. “Eventually, you’re going to see him break out. There is no question about that.”

Of course, Bylsma couldn’t say for sure it would happen right away. But it did, as Crosby scored after going 13 playoff games without a goal, and the Penguins beat the Rangers 2-0 at Madison Square Garden.

Marc-Andre Fleury posted his second shutout in as many nights, making 35 saves. As nice as it was from a Penguins perspective to see Crosby put his name on the scoresheet, it has to be doubly satisfying to witness the confidence demonstrated by Fleury.

As he was a night earlier in stopping 22 Rangers shots, Fleury was in a zone and square to the puck, relying on a fast glove hand to pick Rangers shots out of the air when they appeared to be going into the net.

Fleury had to be good, as his teammates had just 15 shots on Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

The Penguins lead the Eastern Conference best-of-seven semifinal 2-1 and can put the Rangers in a tough spot with another victory in Game 4 on Wednesday.

At the same time, the Rangers have to hope that Crosby, who was the best player on the ice in Game 2 but had no points, doesn’t go on a tear.

The Rangers had won 12 of their past 17 playoff games at home, including seven of the previous nine. But despite lineup changes, and line changes, by coach Alain Vigneault, the Rangers couldn’t get on track in front of an increasingly frustrated home crowd.

It didn’t help that the Rangers on three occasions hit iron behind Fleury, who has displayed more poise than he did in his team’s opening-round elimination of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Crosby got the monkey — let’s be honest, it was the whole zoo — off his back when he scored at 2:34 of the second period.

A great stretch pass from defenceman Robert Bortuzzo allowed Crosby to skate in alone on Lundqvist, though a hard-charging Marc Staal tried to get back. A quick release by Crosby found its way between Lundqvist’s legs, and Crosby broke into a big grin as he was mobbed by his teammates.

Jussi Jokinen scored on a breakaway at 15:20 of the second period after leaving the penalty box. Mats Zuccarello’s pass to Brad Richards at the Penguins blue line went awry, and Jokinen picked up the gift in the neutral zone.

When Jokinen beat Lundqvist with a low shot, it extended Jokinen’s point streak to seven games. Jokinen has a point in eight of the Penguins’ nine playoff games this spring, coming up empty only in Game 2 against the Blue Jackets.

Before Jokinen’s goal, play was stopped when it appeared that Zuccarello tied the game for New York. But the collective groan of the crowd when the replay was shown on the centre-ice video board was enough to indicate that Zuccarello’s shot hit the cross bar.

Vigneault tried to jack up his team’s sorry power play by inserting defenceman Raphael Diaz and his big slapshot for the first time in the post-season, but it didn’t work.

The Rangers had chances, but Fleury was sharp and New York’s power-play futility was stretched to no goals in 33 consecutive chances in a row.

Before the game, Vigneault told media it was time for his elite players to step up.

“They’re big boys,” Vigneault said in reference to Nash, Martin St. Louis and Derek Stepan. “Put on the big boy pants.”

It didn’t happen. Nash’s string of zeroes in the goal department has reached 13 consecutive playoff games.

The Rangers had a couple of terrific chances in the first period, but Fleury was on the mark when he snared a Zuccarello shot.

There was some luck too, when Benoit Pouliot hit the post.

Brian Gibbons came close when Crosby set him up, but his shot went inches wide and the teams went into their respective dressing rooms without a goal at either end.

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/koshtorontosun


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