NEW YORK -- Marc-Andre Fleury has been one of the finest goaltenders in the NHL for the past three months.
There are limits, though, to what can be expected of even the sharpest, most accomplished goalie.
Stopping what he can't see isn't on the list.
Or it shouldn't be, anyway.
That reality was reinforced in the Penguins' 5-3 loss to the New York Rangers Sunday at Madison Square Garden, when Fleury got a decent look at few, if any, of the pucks that made it past him.
"Every team is trying to establish that presence [near the crease], and they were good in that regard," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "And they got pucks to the net."
Some of New York's goals involved screens. Some involved deflections. Some involved both.
Most were pretty much unstoppable, unless they happened to hit Fleury by accident.
"They did a great job of putting pucks to the net from anywhere, and they do a good job in front," Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland said. "They had some big bodies in front of [Fleury], and it's tough to stop them."
Especially when the Rangers have an extra man, and it is guys such as Ryan Callahan and Brian Boyle who are hovering around the crease. Both are adept at obscuring a goaltender's view, and redirecting anything teammates toss their way.
"Callahan and Boyle are two of the best guys in the league at tipping pucks," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said.
That was particularly true in this game, when New York scored on half of its six chances with the extra man. It was the first time the Penguins have allowed three power-play goals in a game this season, and just the fourth time an opponent has scored more than one.
Those are impressive numbers, but here's another one that shouldn't be ignored: The Penguins have given up five man-advantage goals in their past two games.
Not quite a trend yet, but troubling, nonetheless.
"For the most part this year, our [penalty-killing] has come up big," forward Craig Adams said. "But it hasn't come up big the last two games."
That's a particular problem because of the diluted lineup the Penguins are deploying these days.
If they took all of their injured and suspended players on the road, they'd probably have to charter a larger airplane. Maybe two.
And with elite point producers such as Sidney Crosby (concussion) and Evgeni Malkin (knee surgery) unavailable -- Crosby indefinitely, Malkin until next season -- the Penguins don't have the luxury of trading goals with their opponents, let alone giving them power plays that could be avoided.
For while the efforts the Penguins have gotten from their minor league call-ups have been commendable -- Nick Johnson and Brett Sterling accounted for two of their three goals against the Rangers -- most of those guys would be laboring in Wilkes-Barre if Bylsma could select his lineup from the usual talent pool.
"With the lineup we're putting on the ice right now, there's no way we can allow ourselves to take that many penalties if we want a realistic chance of winning," Orpik said.
"Our discipline has to be better. You almost have to play a perfect game. Right now, there's not a lot of room for error."
They seemed to give themselves a little Sunday, when Engelland (2:06) and Johnson (5:06) beat Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist for an early lead, but Rangers coach John Tortorella made the play of the game while the Penguins were celebrating Johnson's goal.
He called a timeout.
Nothing terribly innovative about that, but the move couldn't have been more effective.
Just 37 seconds later, Brian Boyle scored to trigger a run of five unanswered goals by New York.
"We needed to score our first goal before they got anything else," Tortorella said.
The Rangers did. Got their second, third, fourth and fifth before the Penguins got another, for that matter.
And when Sterling scored that one at 5:12 of the third -- the Penguins' only power-play goal in six tries -- it was too late to alter the course of the game.
"They won the special teams," Engelland said. "And that won them the game."
Dave Molinari: firstname.lastname@example.org . First Published February 14, 2011 5:00 AM