Sidney Crosby flew down the wing with Ryan Whitney on a 2 on 1. As he neared the goalie, Crosby flung the puck past the defenseman and right to the stick of Whitney. A split second later, whitney returned the puck to Crosby at the right post. Wide open net. Goal, right?
Gary Roberts along the right boards. To Erik Christensen had at the right faceoff dot. He spun around and passed it to Petr Sykora cutting to the net. The centering pass is perfect. The redirection is even better, heading for the top corner of the net. Another goal, right?
They would be, if the goalie was not playing that, and almost every other game on a superhuman level.
But Lundqvist was there both times, first with the glove and then with the blocker, sending Crosby and Sykora to the bench with heads raised to the sky. It was not just Lundqvist, who earned his league-leading, 6th shutout of the season, who stifled the Penguins offense but a full team effort, led by the top defensive line (not the fourth line anymore) of Betts Hollweg and Orr who shut down Sidney Crosby and Co. for the first time this season. Aside from being the first blank score for the Penguins, it was also their first game with less than 22 shots as they only managed 18 against Lundqvist.
On the other side of the puck, the Rangers were ready and the Penguins looked like the flu bug going around was effecting them. The Rangers outshot the Penguins 31-18, not always a good thing for a squad that has a 10-11-1 record when outshooting opponents, and converted 4 of those shots into goals.
These weren't the pretty goals you see Crosby score, they were the dirty ones. First, Gomez banged in a rebound, only 1:12 into the game, as the Penguins D could not handle the masses of blueshirted bodies in front of Dany Saborin. Then it was Marty Straka who redirected a Rozsival shot with Gomez standing in front. Third, Gomez tried to center to Drury in front on a second period power play but Ryan Whitney's skates got in the way and did the job for them, redirecting it in for the Rangers' thrid goal. And Drury closed the scoring as he jammed a Michael Rozsvial pass past Saborin as a 5 on 3 expired.
So what is the common denominator? Someone in front of the net, causing havoc, screening goalies and with that, you dont need Sidney Crosby to score four goals. That is how an offense like the Rangers can score goals, by working for them.
Another success so far has been the reunion of Gomez and Jagr on the top line. The pair, together with Marty Straka, produced two even strength goals and helped Jagr get an assist (its been a while). Says Gomez, "Sometimes you have to make changes. Sometimes you've got to mix things up." And for one game it seemed to work, and as Jagr told the media after the game, he's going to try to adjust to Gomez's game and play the style he played with Mario Lemuiex.
As for the team as a whole, they won the battles in the corners, had the big hits and seemed to be a step faster then the Penguins, a step that they havent seemed to have since beating the Isles in November.
Do they have that step back now? We will see on Thursday in Minnesota.