The Rangers and Pens played a hard fought game this afternoon that seemed to turn up in intensity as the game went along.
After scoring first, the Rangers continued to apply pressure in the offensive zone, but (as Ed Olczyk correctly pointed out) allowed Pittsburgh too much space in the high slot and at the points by continually collapsing in front of Lundqvist. Marian Hossa and Evgeni Malkin cashed in on two golden opportunities to give the Pens a 2-1 lead in the 1st period, and one that they would never relinquish.
For the rest of the game, both teams would trade minutes of puck possession and pressure. The Rangers were called for several penalties that took away from their attack. Some of the calls were interesting and others standard, but the bottom line is that you should never use the officiating as an excuse at this time of year.
As this game went along, it felt more and more like the playoffs. You can just tell when players turn it up to a level we haven't seen for most of the season. The Rangers and Devils played to this pace on Thursday night in the 3rd, and it gave me the chills to watch that same level of play emerge in today's 3rd period.
Overall the Rangers could have done some things better - especially in the offensive zone, it seemed that the slot was once again virgin territory - but they did a good job to stay in a what was legitimately a one-goal game on the road for most of the afternoon. These two teams meet again tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden in a game that will be shown on Versus.
It's a good thing these games are nationally televised, because the country needs to see that the East (and more specifically the Atlantic Division) is a dogfight, and that any playoff team can win this conference. There's no easy out in the first round.
How great would it be to see these two teams play at some point this spring?