Rangers can't rattle Pens

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- Marc-Andre Fleury was not about to put up with any of Sean Avery's shenanigans.

Having repeatedly been smacked behind the pads in the game's final seconds by the pesky Rangers winger, a defiant Fleury hacked back at Avery before behemoth defenceman Hal Gill lumbered in to his goalie's aid.

"The guy was slashing at my legs so I decided to give it to him a bit," Fleury said, breaking into a toothy grin.

The moral of this story: These young Pittsburgh Penguins are not going to succumb to any of the mind games the wise old New York Rangers try to throw their way.

This Eastern Conference semi-final was supposed to be about the veteran savvy of the New York Rangers against the raw emotion and skill of the relatively inexperienced Pittsburgh Penguins.

Yet, for three hours at the stuffy Mellon Arena yesterday, it was the Pens who showed the maturity en route to a 2-0 victory in Game 2.

That was symbolized by Fleury, 23, the once-maligned No. 1 overall pick, who has blossomed the past two months and yesterday signalled to the Rangers that he will not be Avery's victim.

It was symbolized by Sidney Crosby, 20, who showed admirable restraint by ignoring Jagr's chirping while the Rangers captain was following him around during a stoppage in play in the first period.

And it was symbolized by Jordan Staal, 19, whose nifty shot on the power play at 13:55 of the second period, past Henrik Lundqvist, proved to be the winner, propelling the Penguins to a 2-0 lead in games heading into tomorrow night's clash at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers have attempted to get into the heads of the Pens, alleging that Crosby likes to flop in order to draw penalties. So when Crosby went down to the ice courtesy of a Fedor Tyutin hold at 13:54 of the first period, Jagr decided to have a word with him.

Asked about the incident, Jagr rolled his eyes, let out a sigh, then decided to be coy.

"I'm not going to tell you what I said," he responded. "Did it help us? Probably not."

Cracking a grin, Jagr quickly added: "I wished him good luck."

We're not buying it. Did he really say that, Sidney?

"Just ask him," Crosby said. "I wasn't the one talking."

In a city where defence is appreciated more than perhaps anywhere else -- this is where Mean Joe Greene's Steel Curtain dominated the NFL in the 1970s -- the Penguins smothered the Rangers, allowing the visitors to get very few quality scoring opportunities on Fleury, who recorded his second career post-season shutout.

That allowed Staal's goal to hold up, with Adam Hall adding an empty-netter.

"We take pride in our defensive game," Staal said. "We can play on both sides of the puck. We know what it takes to win.

"If it's a tight game, we'll play a tight game and if it's an open-it-up game we can open it up as well."

Regardless of the style of game, if the Rangers don't find a way to solve these young Penguins, they'll soon be catching the Stanley Cup playoffs on the tube.


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