NEW YORK -- For the first time in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, the New York Rangers find themselves trailing in a series, and it's starting to feel like the Pittsburgh Penguins are taking control of the second-round set.
The Blueshirts were blanked for the second straight game by Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury in Monday's 2-0 loss and are now facing a 2-1 series deficit heading into Game 4 on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
Fleury has been tremendous the past two games, and Sidney Crosby has delivered an excellent pair of performances as well. The superstar center even snapped a 13-game drought with his second-period goal against Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist on Monday night.
The Rangers insist they are not tired, not even after playing six games in nine nights, but it's becoming harder to believe as they have been consistently outplayed by the Penguins as the series goes deeper.
Sid Scores: Judging from his sensational performance in Game 2 on Sunday, it was really only a matter of time before Crosby ended his skid.
Crosby’s marker should provide him some relief from the relentless questions about his lack of production, at least temporarily. The captain seems to be getting better as the series progresses, too. Not a good sign for the Rangers.
What now? Shockingly, the MSG crowd’s restless chant imploring the Blueshirts to “shoot the puck” did not solve the ills of the Rangers’ beleaguered power-play unit, which has now been stopped in 34 straight attempts.
Though the Rangers did enjoy extended offensive zone time on their fourth power play of the night, Fleury was stingy in denying them an opportunity to expunge their atrocious record. Following that power play in the second period, Jussi Jokinen emerged from the box to beat Lundqvist on a solo breakaway that gave the Penguins a 2-0 lead with 4:40 remaining in the frame.
Fresh faces: Vigneault said his team wasn’t tired, but his sweeping lineup changes suggested otherwise, as he inserted rookies Jesper Fast and J.T. Miller into the lineup for rugged wingers Derek Dorsett and Daniel Carcillo, and subbed in depth defenseman Raphael Diaz for third-pair blue-liner John Moore.
In fact, the only line that remained intact after a dispiriting loss in Game 2 was the trio of Benoit Pouliot, Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello, the team’s most consistent bunch during the playoffs, not to mention much of the regular season.
While Vigneault may have been searching for some fresh legs to spark a weary Blueshirts squad, the drastic move did not have the desired effect. The jumbled lines had the Rangers looking not only tired but disjointed as well.