NEW YORK -- Desperation can manifest itself in a myriad of ways in the grind of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Monday night at Madison Square Garden, it settled over the ice near the end of the second period, when the blue-T-shirt-over-business-suit crowd began chanting "Shoot the puck!" in unison.
The Rangers were on their way to a 33rd consecutive power play without even lucking into a goal (they would end the night with their grotesque streak intact at 34). During this foray with the man-advantage, they held the puck in the Penguins zone for about a minute and a half, heeding the pleas of their fans by firing shot after shot in the direction of suddenly unflappable Marc-Andre Fleury.
None found the net, of course, but that didn't stop the crowd from cheering when the Rangers' No. 1 unit skated off. Hey, at least they had tried.
Bylsma, Sutter talk about Penguins' win, next game
Pittsburgh Penguins Brandon Sutter and head coach Dan Bylsma talk to the media from Madison Square Garden in New York. (Video by Peter Diana; 5/6/2014)
With a 2-0 victory and their second shutout in as many nights, the Penguins took a 2-1 series lead against the Rangers, who failed to score on all five of their power plays -- including three in the first 22 minutes, 15 seconds.
"It's been a struggle," Rangers center Mats Zuccarello said. "We can't let it get to our heads. It's not going to get any easier."
As if it wasn't bad enough that New York remained stymied for another night, the Penguins also just happened to score both of their goals within 20 seconds of returning to full strength.
Jussi Jokinen's second-period breakaway goal came eight seconds after the Penguins killed off his holding-the-stick penalty.
Power outages in Midtown Manhattan make easy scenes for superhero and natural-disaster movies, and, at this point, a tsunami stirring in the nearby Hudson River might be easier to explain than some of the best professional hockey players around failing to find a goal when the rules of the game are handing them chance after chance.
The Penguins practically were daring the Rangers to turn on the electricity in the newly renovated Garden. With 5:16 elapsed in the first period, Marcel Goc shoved the Rangers' Dominic Moore in the face and went to the box for roughing. At 18:15, James Neal's stick found the mouth of Jesper Fast, who bled and therefore sent Neal to the box with a double-minor for high-sticking.
On that power play, the Rangers' Benoit Pouliot began a team-wide attack on the Penguins crossbar.
He would be joined by Martin St. Louis and Zuccarello, whose horizontal deflection off the post defied the laws of physics.
"We hit a bunch of posts, [Fleury] made some saves," St. Louis said. "You know, sometimes you just need a bounce, and we didn't get it. But you have to keep working to get bounces."
Zuccarello said he felt the Rangers were the better team, and they outshot the Penguins, 35-15, to back up his assertion.
"We had the puck a lot more in their zone, more possession," said Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh. "We should feel good. We had a lot of good looks.
"It's just a matter of really crashing that net and making it hard on [Fleury] as much as you can."
J. Brady McCollough: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @BradyMcCollough.