Penguins suffer second-period meltdown against Rangers, 4-3

New York's four consecutive goals too much to overcome; front-line defensemen Letang, Michalek miss game because of injuries



NEW YORK -- These Penguins are a pretty resilient group.

They've survived a lot of adversity the past couple of seasons, and seem to be better for it.

But some holes simply are too deep for any team to escape. Like the kind that results when a quality opponent such as the New York Rangers runs off four consecutive goals, as New York did in a 4-3 victory Tuesday night against the Penguins at Madison Square Garden.

Quite a few factors contributed to the Penguins' miseries in the second period, but the most obvious was their inability to kill penalties. The Rangers had two chances with the extra man and got a goal from each.

The Penguins did some quality work when New York had a manpower advantage the rest of the game, including a couple of two-man advantages that lasted a total of one minute, 53 seconds in the third period, but that didn't undo the damage of the second.

"The penalty kill hasn't been as good [as it was previously]," coach Dan Bylsma said. "It's given up two goals in three of the last four [away] games. That's not a very good recipe to have success on the road."

Neither is having to replace two of your top defensemen a few hours before a game. The Penguins recalled defensemen Robert Bortuzzo and Alexandre Picard from their minor league team in Wilkes-Barre because Kris Letang and Zbynek Michalek return to Pittsburgh for further evaluation of their injuries.

Letang got a broken nose -- and possibly other facial injuries -- when he took a blind-side hit to the face Saturday from Montreal's Max Pacioretty.

Michalek recently missed 10 games because of a broken finger and left the Montreal game before Letang was injured because of an undisclosed injury. There was no word on what prevented him from playing against the Rangers. Bylsma said that sending them home was a "precautionary" move.

The Penguins had one spot open on their 23-man roster before recalling Bortuzzo and Picard. To make room for both, they placed winger Steve MacIntyre on injured reserve. Bylsma did not specify the nature of his injury.

Letang, Michalek and MacIntyre all had participated in the game-day skate.

The Penguins were awarded the only three power plays of the opening period and scored on the last one to take a 1-0 lead.

James Neal got the goal, his 14th, at 17:56, when he took a backhand feed from Sidney Crosby and beat Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist from the right hash. The second assist went to Paul Martin.

The Rangers got their first chance with the extra man when Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis was sent off for holding at 6:10 of the second and scored the tying goal.

Ryan Callahan got it at 8:01, knocking a shot past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury from the right side of the crease after getting a pass from Marian Gaborik.

"We gave up that power-play goal, and they seemed to build some momentum off that," Penguins forward Craig Adams said.

And things began to seriously unravel a few minutes later.

New York went in front to stay at 14:09 when John Mitchell took a pass from Carl Hagelin and threw a shot past Fleury high on the glove side from above the left hash.

Just 90 seconds later, Brad Richards put the Rangers up, 3-1, when he used defenseman Brooks Orpik as a screen and whipped a shot over Fleury's glove from the slot.

Gaborik punctuated the surge by scoring on a power play at 18:26.

"They capitalized on some mistakes on our part," Crosby said. "They scored some nice goals, too. Give them credit. Nice shots."

Evgeni Malkin finally slowed the Rangers by knocking in a Neal rebound at 19:53 for his ninth.

"That was big," Fleury said. "We have a team that's able to come back, no matter what the score is, so I think everybody was still confident we could do it."

Malkin's goal seemed to rejuvenate the Penguins, and Dupuis got them within a goal at 3:39 of the third, but the Penguins couldn't avoid having their road record slip to 6-6-2.

"I don't think there's not [reason] for us not doing well on the road or something that we need to address," Bylsma said.

Nothing that a couple of timely penalties kills couldn't help, anyway.


For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Dave Molinari: dmolinari@post-gazette.com and Twitter @molinaripg. First Published November 30, 2011 5:00 AM


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