Stanley Cup Playoffs: Pittsburgh Penguins Wait Too Long To Sharpen Up In Game 3 Loss


Apr 20, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) and defenseman Paul Martin (7) clear the puck as New York Rangers left wing Rick Nash (61) reacts during the third period in game three of the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Rangers won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Consol Energy Center has never been louder, but too much of Monday’s Game 3 was quiet for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Although they put together an impressive final 15 minutes, the New York Rangers controlled most of the preceding 45, which was enough to produce a 2-1 win for the visitors – and a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven first round Stanley Cup playoff series.

After much speculation regarding how Pens fans would react to their team being an underdog for the first time in six postseason appearances, the actual players seemed less ready to execute than the partisans in the stands.

Pittsburgh went the first 15 minutes without a shot on goal, then staggered through much of the first two periods as the Rangers marched to a 2-0 lead on strikes by Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider.

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The third period was a different story, as the Penguins pressed to break Henrik Lundqvist‘s shutout and make a game of it. With defensemen joining the attack effectively, Pittsburgh generated more puck possession and zone time, but no goals as the final seven minutes approached.

That changed at 13:12, when Patric Hornqvist capped an outstanding shift by the Pens’ group of five skaters with a rebound goal. Ian Cole created the chance with a slapper that banged into bodies in front, which included Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz.

David Perron, whose strong third period mirrored the team’s, had a great backhand chance moments later that sailed just wide. He also had an open look in the final minute that was blocked, as did defenseman Ben Lovejoy seconds earlier, but time ran out on the comeback.

For the third straight game, the Penguins’ fourth line of Nick Spaling-Max Lapierre-Blake Comeau was productive, but it was the team’s most consistent trio for too long. Coach Mike Johnston said the Pens were guilty of overpassing and being too selective, a point that was difficult to argue in the face of 11 shots on goal through two periods.

Adding to the frustration of the loss was continued permissive officiating. Both teams got away with what looked to be several clear penalties, with the Rangers apparently committing an obstruction foul immediately preceding each of their goals. There were four total power plays in the game, two for each side.

But since it appears no amount of protest will change what is becoming a slower game, the players will have to resign themselves to fighting through many more restraining fouls than should be allowed at any time of year.

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  • In terms of the Penguins, they will host Game 4 on Wednesday night, knowing that a win is necessary to keep their hopes of a series victory feasible.

    Marc-Andre Fleury was solid once again Monday, as his 24-save performance was highlighted by an aggressive second-period stop on Derek Stepan after one of several giveaways by the Pittsburgh defense in the early going.

    Rob Scuderi continues to hold the Pens blueline down like an anchor, although rookies Taylor Chorney and Brian Dumoulin appear to be gaining confidence by the game. In general, it’s a unit that plays better when looking to join the rush, so it would benefit them to have an attacking mindset in Game 4.

    At the very least, the Pens can expect that their supporters will provide some energy, which hasn’t been the case during many tense moments in the five-year history of the franchise’s second home.

    Next: Hounds hope to learn from late collapse