- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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PITTSBURGH -- The New York Rangers took Game 1 of their second-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins and look to build a 2-0 advantage before heading back home to New York for Games 3 and 4. Again, the Blueshirts will be confronted with that woeful stat -- 12 straight playoff losses while holding a series lead -- and they aim to end it Sunday night at Consol Energy Center. The Penguins battled some monumental momentum swings in their first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, ultimately prevailing in six games. Will they show that same resilience in this series and tie things up before jumping on a flight to the Big Apple?
Stopping Sid: Sidney Crosby is slumping at the worst possible time for the Pens, entering Sunday’s action without a goal in 12 straight postseason contests. Crosby was held off the score sheet entirely in the series opener and was on the ice for all three goals against. His skid has sparked speculation that he might be playing through an injury, a debate that will certainly rage on unless he starts producing. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said he was confident in the center’s ability to bounce back: “I expect him to be at his best tonight,” he said Sunday morning. “I really do.”
Change afoot: The Rangers appear to be making a change to their struggling power-play unit, which is mired in an 0-for-25 slump. Based on the team’s morning skate Sunday, defenseman Anton Stralman may get a chance to play the point on the man-advantage. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault has been reluctant to use Stralman on the power-play all season and wouldn’t confirm the change, but Stralman said he was eager to embrace the opportunity if he gets the chance: “It’s about getting shots through, hitting the net and creating some chances,” he said. “Hopefully, I can help this power play right now."
Still sidelined: Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik did not skate Sunday, making it likely that he will miss his fourth straight game for Pittsburgh. Injured Rangers forward Chris Kreider, who has yet to make his 2014 playoffs debut after suffering a left hand injury late in the regular season, skated with the team and appears to be making progress. Vigneault said Kreider was “looking better,” but the coach does not know whether he’ll be available during this series.
Scoring woes: Crosby isn’t the only star player enduring criticism for his lack of production. Rick Nash has yet to find the back of the net this playoff season, either. The winger has scored in only one of 20 postseason games for the Rangers. His linemate Derek Stepan said on Saturday that he felt the trio was on the verge of breaking through, but Nash stressed the importance of capitalizing on chances: “This time of year, close doesn’t really matter. We’ve got to be finishing our opportunities.”