Penguins notebook: Rangers coach seeks momentum

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NEW YORK — New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault believes in momentum, but perhaps not the sort that accompanies or dictates big swings in a playoff series.

“Momentum is sometimes from shift to shift in a period, from period to period,” he said Monday before New York played host to the Penguins in Game 3 of their second-round series.

“I’ve liked our first period of both our [previous] games. I’ve hated our second period both our [previous] games.”

The teams split those games.

Even with a short turnaround — the teams were playing on back-to-back nights with travel between — Vigneault seemed to believe his message about performance and consistency got through to his players.

“I think they picked up on it,” he said, with a wry smile.

Perhaps in an attempt to capture whatever momentum he could for the Rangers, Vigneault issued a bit of a pregame challenge to some of his top players, including forwards Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis and Derek Stepan.

Those three combined for zero points in the first two games of the series, while the Penguins got strong play from stars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury in a 3-0 Game 2 win.

“Their big boys put on the big-boy pants,” Vigneault said. “I need mine to do that.”

Crosby named award finalist

Crosby was named one of three finalists for the Ted Lindsay Award, which goes to the NHL’s Most Outstanding Player as voted by the players.

The Penguins center has won the Lindsay Award twice, including last year.

In the regular season, Crosby led the NHL with 104 points.

The other finalists are center Ryan Getzlaf of Anaheim and center Claude Giroux of Philadelphia. Those three previously were announced as the finalists for the Hart Trophy, which goes to the NHL MVP.

All trophy-winners will be announced during an NHL awards night June 24 in Las Vegas.

Bylsma backs Fleury

For more than a year, Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has had his game and his confidence questioned after he lost his starting job in the first round of the 2013 playoffs.

He entered these playoffs under a lot of scrutiny and facing a lot of questions about expectations and what might be expected from him.

Coach Dan Bylsma was asked before Game 3 how Fleury maintained his mental toughness under such a public microscope.

“He gets a lot of practice,” Bylsma deadpanned. “The question has been asked for a hundred days in a row.”

Time for Game 5 set

The NHL set a start time of 7:08 p.m. Friday for Game 5 at Consol Energy Center.

If a Game 6 is necessary, it will be played Sunday at Madison Square Garden. No time has been set for Game 6, but it is believed it would be a night game.

Niskanen evaluates his play

Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen was far from happy with his performance in Game 1 of this series.

“I made a couple of mistakes,” he said. “I’m not happy about it but … you’ve got to be realistic with yourself and evaluate yourself and use it as motivation for the next game. Playoffs, you’ve got to learn from it quick, have a short memory and get jacked up for the next one.”

That evaluation, which is a regular part of digesting each game for each player, is detailed.

“I always think it’s positional — the details of where you’re supposed to be, where your stick should be, things like that,” Niskanen said. “Focus on those things and, once you’re out there, you shouldn’t be thinking about it. Evaluate how you were positionally in the game before, look at it that way and you just focus on playing the game.”

Video is the standard medium for those evaluations.

“It’s available to us individually every game,” Niskanen said. “And I do that. I watch every game individually. Sometimes if Todd [Reirden, the Penguins assistant who works with the defensemen] has something to show us, which is quite often, he’ll show you something specific that he wants you to take a look at. Sometimes, you watch them in pairs. Sometimes, you watch them [with all the defensemen]. For the most part, individual evaluation, then Todd will step in.”

Reirden doesn’t have to be around, though, because of the ease of access.

“We have a computer system,” Niskanen said. “You just click on the game you want and look at your shifts. They can set it up so you can look on your iPad at home.”

Tip-ins

The Penguins stayed with the same lineup as in Game 2. The scratches were forwards Tanner Glass, Taylor Pyatt, Chris Conner and Jayson Megna, and defenseman Deryk Engelland and Brooks Orpik (unspecified injury) … New York’s Henrik Lundqvist climbed into first place all-time among Rangers goaltenders with his 77th playoff appearance, moving past Mike Richter. Lundqvist made his 76th postseason start in a row.


Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.

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