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Rangers offense falters in Game 3 loss to the Penguins; McDonagh’s return triumphant

Bobby Bevilacqua

Rangers vs Penguins Game 3 4-19

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

The Rangers offense mustered just 17 shots on goal as the Blueshirts dropped their first playoff home game to the Penguins, 3-1, failing to consistently get the forwards involved and pressure Matt Murray, who was making his first NHL playoff appearance.

Murray made the surprise return from his head injury, replacing Jeff Zatkoff and making 16 saves on 17 shots and never facing a ton of pressure. The Penguins dominated on the defensive front, getting good contributions from Kris Letang, Olli Maatta and Trevor Daley.

It’s not like the Rangers played bad defensively though. In fact, they played extremely well for large parts of this game. Marc Staal played his best game of the playoffs in limited ice time, Brady Skjei played nearly 20 minutes, mostly with Ryan McDonagh. The Rangers benefitted from the return of their captain, and he played very well in all areas of the ice. It didn’t look like he missed any time at all, making some good defensive reads, contributed to the offensive game and handling his defensive assignments against guys like Crosby and Malkin very well.

However, the forwards let the team down. They had just 17 shots on goal, two high danger shots on goal, six medium danger shots on goal, and only three third period scoring chances where they trailed for the last 16 minutes of the game. It was a disappointing effort, and mostly all of the forwards had a disappointing night.

The first period was extremely fast paced and physical, with each teams playing with a very high level of intensity, and lots of bad blood brewing. There were very few stoppages early on and each team was flying up the ice.

Evgeni Malkin was wreaking havoc early, getting in the crease, attacking the net and creating offense while centering the third line. There were back and forth chances, with both goalies making some great saves. Matt Murray made the surprise start for the Penguins, making a stop on Derek Stepan. Henrik Lundqvist responded with a great shoulder save on Phil Kessel on an odd man rush.

Ryan McDonagh also returned to the ice in this game, and he looked like his normal self. He was skating extremely well, throwing the body and flinging shots on net. He was paired with Brady Skjei, who also played well in this period.

The Rangers looked like they had scored a power play goal after Dominic Moore was high sticked and earned a double minor. Kreider collected the puck from Malkin’s skates and rifled a great shot past Murray. But a replay showed that JT Miller was just barely offsides, and the goal was called off.

Later on, the Penguins and the Rangers continued to show hostility, with pushing and shoving after every shift, some crosschecks and more. The Stepan line was fantastic, generating scoring chances up to the final buzzer. After one period, the game was scoreless and the Penguins were up in shots, 9-6.

Just a few seconds into the second period, Chris Kreider took a penalty, sending the Penguins to the power play. But it was the Rangers that scored the goal, with Rick Nash scoring his third point in as many games. Nash burst down the wing and beat his defender, firing a tremendous wrist shot to the far post and beating Matt Murray for the first goal of the game.

The Rangers really buckled down defensively for most of the period after that. McDonagh and Skjei continued their excellent performances in the game, and everyone else was playing good as well. Henrik Lundqvist also made some excellent saves, including one on Letang and another on a redirection. The Rangers had two more power play opportunities, but could not convert.

Late in the period, Marc Staal took a hooking penalty, although it looked somewhat borderline, with Hagelin clamping down on the stick. On the man advantage, the Penguins scored, with Sidney Crosby redirecting a feed from Phil Kessel. It was another power play goal conceded by the Rangers, and another late goal given up.

After two periods, the game was tied at one and the Rangers were up in shots, 19-13.

The Rangers offense really came to a halt in the third period, mustering just four shots on goal in the 20 minutes. The Penguins played excellent defensively, shutting down the Rangers’ forwards and limiting their ability to break through the neutral zone.

Just 4:16 into the period, Matt Cullen scored his first goal of the playoffs. Keith Yandle and Dan Boyle didn’t communicate well and skated into each other and leaving the puck for Cullen. He fired a quick shot past Henrik, giving the Penguins a 2-1 lead.

Kris Letang iced the game with an empty net goal, sending the Penguins home with a 3-1 win and a 2-1 series lead. Game Four will be back at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.

THREE STARS

  • Rick Nash – 1 G, +1, 3 BS, 3 HT, 18:27 TOT
  • Henrik Lundqvist 29 SV, .933 SV%
  • Brady Skjei – 19:53 TOT
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Posted on April 20, 2016, in Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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