Another one for the road: Penguins win in New York, 3-0
February 1, 2013 8:00 PM
Paul Bereswill/Getty Images
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist skates away as Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins celebrate Malkin's goal in the first period Thursday at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Kathy Willens/Associated Press
Rangers center Brian Boyle skates near Penguins goalie Tomas Vokoun during the second period last night in Madison Square Garden.
By Dave Molinari Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
NEW YORK -- The Penguins did not plan for many of the things that have happened during the early weeks of this season.
They did not expect their power play to fail on 16 consecutive opportunities.
They did not anticipate losing their first two home games to Toronto and the New York Islanders.
But one thing they were counting on -- a solid contribution from Tomas Vokoun, who was brought in to upgrade their No. 2 goaltending slot -- has worked out just the way management hoped. Maybe better.
Vokoun stopped all 28 shots he faced -- a couple of pucks that eluded him ended up hitting goalposts -- to earn his 49th career shutout in a 3-0 victory Thursday night against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
"We knew we were going to get a guy who could come in and win games, and win big games for us," coach Dan Bylsma said.
"Tonight, he was real solid. Looked great. Looked real confident."
Looked like he fully anticipated rejecting everything the Rangers threw at him. Which, it turns out, was a pretty accurate read, in part because of the way his teammates played in front of him.
"[The Rangers] hit a couple of posts, so it could have been a different story, but it was a good team effort," Vokoun said. "It's going to sound strange, but the game was kind of easy for me.
"For the most part, we were where we needed to be [defensively]. We didn't let them go east-west. All the shots were coming straight at me.
"That makes it a lot easier for a goalie. That's something we hadn't been doing in the past games, and it cost us."
While the Penguins have been getting precisely what they wanted from Vokoun, defenseman Simon Despres reminded them why it is worth remaining patient with him, why they should be willing to endure the growing pains that are all but inevitable for a rookie on defense at this level.
"He's playing a tough position," Bylsma said. "Yes, he's had some growing pains ... but he's a solid guy."
Despres set up Evgeni Malkin for what proved to be the winner at 1:24 of the opening period -- it was the second time this season the Penguins have beaten Rangers all-world goalie Henrik Lundqvist with their first shot -- and then sealed the outcome with a goal of his own at 8:14 of the third.
Despres had just finished serving a hooking minor when he broke down the slot, took a feed from Pascal Dupuis and tossed a backhander past Lundqvist to make it 3-0.
Despres said the situation that unfolded never had happened to him before, although nothing in the cool way he handled it suggested such novelty.
"I've been imagining it all my life, and I got it tonight," he said. "I was pretty happy. I just tried to do a quick move. Lundqvist is very good, so I tried something, and it worked."
Lundqvist's immense talent is obvious and undeniable, but the Penguins have put nine pucks past him in two games this season. And doing it as early as they have both times has gone a long way to shape the outcome.
"To be able to get one to squeak by him there ... it definitely feels good against a goalie of that caliber," Bylsma said.
Despres' goal put the game completely out of New York's reach, but the one the Penguins' power play generated 28 seconds into the third period gave them some badly needed insurance.
To say nothing of a huge psychological boost after they had been so bad, so often with the extra man this season.
James Neal got the goal by deflecting in a Sidney Crosby shot, stopping a run of 16 consecutive failed power plays.
"It's great," Neal said. "At the same time, even if we didn't score, we were definitely on the verge of scoring.
"We were shooting a lot of pucks and we were retrieving. That's what our power play needs to look like."
The victory was, in part, a credit to the Penguins' special teams. They were 1 for 6 with the man-advantage, and killed all four New York power plays.
Rangers coach John Tortorella called the game "probably the worst we've played all year," but Bylsma had a predictably different perspective.