Thursday, April 5, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Penguins 5, Rangers 2
By Katie Strang
What it means: The Rangers already clinched the Eastern Conference title, but the Penguins may be the team to beat in the playoffs. Pittsburgh defeated New York for the fourth straight game, clinching the No. 4 seed with a 5-2 win over the first-place Rangers. League-leading scorer Evgeni Malkin finished with his 49th goal of the season and an assist in an impressive display of depth for the Penguins. Brandon Dubinsky and Brian Boyle scored for the Rangers, but Pittsburgh dominated the game even without a goal from superstar Sidney Crosby. Perhaps a preview of the Eastern Conference finals?
Big night for Biron: In his 500th career start, Martin Biron gave up four goals in his second consecutive loss to the Penguins. Biron made what could well be his last appearance in goal, relieving Henrik Lundqvist after Lundqvist made his 10th straight start Tuesday. Lundqvist might have needed a rare night off regardless of the workload; the 30-year-old netminder is battling stiffness in his right arm after making a painful save on Claude Giroux in the second period of the team’s 5-3 win in Philadelphia on Tuesday. However, he is expected to play against the Capitals in the Rangers’ season finale at Madison Square Garden.
Unusual suspects: The Penguins boast one of the deepest squads in the league, but it was a cast of unexpected characters that tallied the first three goals for Pittsburgh: Chris Kunitz, Tyler Kennedy and Richard Park.
Knee-to-knee: Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik was given a five-minute major and game misconduct for his knee-to-knee hit on second-year center Derek Stepan in the third period. Stepan remained on the bench but did not play in the remaining 4:39 of play. Any suspension handed down by NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan would carry over into the playoffs.
First break: The Rangers fell behind early after defenseman Kris Letang's shot bounced off Kunitz’s skate past Biron 1:11 into play. The Penguins capitalized again later in the first, turning a Biron turnover into a 2-1 lead with Kennedy’s 11th of the season.
On the lookout: The Rangers’ spot in the playoffs is set, but their first-round opponent has yet to be determined. With one game remaining in the regular season, it appears the Blueshirts will most likely face the Washington Capitals, who beat the floundering Panthers 4-2. Although unlikely, the Capitals can still top Florida to win the Southeast Division.
Up Next: Rangers vs. Capitals, Saturday at 6:30 p.m.