The lack of discipline on the Pittsburgh Penguins has been a running theme all season long. Going into the playoffs, you would think that the coaching staff would stress the importance of staying out of the box and not give a team like the New York Rangers the chance to go on the power play.
But even if Mike Johnston told his players to stop taking stupid penalties, it must have gone in one ear and out the other, as the Penguins continued to take unnecessary penalties in Game 2 against the Rangers. The only good thing for the Pens was that they still managed to come away with the 4-3 win and tie up the series at 1-1.
PENG-WIN! #Pens take Game 2 and head back to Pittsburgh with a tied up series! pic.twitter.com/9mVSumCeaA
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 19, 2015
In the first period, Ian Cole and Chris Kunitz both took high-sticking penalties that could have easily been avoided. A player always needs to be aware of his stick, and hitting someone in the face with the blade is a clear sign that you don’t have control over your stick and it’s ticket to the penalty box.
The Rangers were unable to convert on the power plays that resulted after these two penalties, but it puts the team in a bad situation and keeps the best players in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin off the ice as they don’t usually kill penalties. Sure they can be involved during the dying seconds of a penalty kill, but other players carry the heavy load on the PK.
#pens have got to get Crosby out there to kill some of this penalty again or Malkin for that matter. #pens #NYR
— Vince Comunale (@PGHVC) April 19, 2015
The Rangers did end taking the lead late in the first period after a great snipe by Derek Stepan after he got acres of space on the right side after a nice cross-ice feed by J.T. Miller as all five Penguins players were puck watching and failed to pick up Stepan.
The stupid penalties continued in the second as Patric Hornqvist made firewood out Chris Kreider’s stick, Nick Spaling boarding Matt Hunwick, and Cole earning his second trip to the box after a hook on Derick Brassard. The Rangers also took a penalty in the second period, a weak call on Carl Hagelin, and unlike the Rangers that once again failed to convert despite all the power play opportunities, the Pens scored and Brandon Sutter got his first goal in the playoffs.
The Penguins did a great job on the penalty kill, but the penalties continued to be unnecessary ones that could easily be avoided. I understand that the adrenalin is pumping in a game like this and that players want to be aggressive, but there’s a big difference between being aggressive and being overzealous.
Crosby had two flashes of brilliance in the second period after being totally anonymous in the first and scored twice. He showed great skill on both tallies, especially the second when he’s on his way down onto the ice but is still able to get a shot off.
In the third period the bad penalties continued for the Penguins and Blake Comeau took an early slashing penalty to put the Rangers on the power play for the sixth time in the game. This time the Rangers finally got something out of the power play as Brassard scored to put the Rangers back within a goal. The Blueshirts got rolling after the goal by Brassard and piled on the pressure and it resulted in Sutter taking a bad holding penalty. It almost cost them, as the Rangers hit the post during the following power play.
To the credit of the Penguins is that when they were given power play opportunities, they were effective. They scored another power-play goal in the middle of the third period as Kunitz smacked home rebound.
Overall, the Pens went two-for-four on the power play and the Rangers one-for-seven. Marc-Andre Fleury had a good game for the Penguins and bailed them out on several occasions.
Sooner or later, the Penguins luck will run out and the Rangers will punish them if they continue to show such a lack of discipline. They can’t rely on Sidney Crosby winning the series for them when some of the other players puts them on the penalty kill time and time again after taking stupid penalties. If the Rangers can mimic the way they played on the power play where Brassard scored, with quick puck movement and constant changing positions and putting bodies in front of the net, then they will be successful in the long run.
Johnston must be happy with the win, but once again he must be telling his players to stop taking bad penalties.