Rangers-Penguins Game 3 Thoughts: 120-Minute Shutout

New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

The only good thing to come from Game 3 was when the MSG big screen showed the “I am Queens Boulevard” scene from Entourage and then cut to Adrian Grenier at the Garden while the series’ theme played and Grenier mouthed the signature line from the show.

The last time the Rangers scored a goal was when I paused Game 1 on Friday night in overtime because I had broken the seal earlier in the game and on the way back from the bathroom my friend Nunz ruined the game’s ending for me with a text message. Since Derick Brassard ended Game 1 with a shot that Pierre McGuire was convinced never went in, the Rangers have been shut out for two games, six periods and 120 minutes by Marc-Andre Fleury. And even though Fleury had the best regular season of his career this year, in the playoffs he is supposed to be what Nick Swisher has been in the playoffs for his entire career. But if you’re a Penguins fan right now, it’s Fleury who has saved the Penguins in this series and their season even if Rangers fans know it’s their team’s offense that’s responsible for those things.

Once upon a time in the playoffs, the Rangers were 3-for-12 on the power play. That time was after Game 2 against the Flyers. Since then, the Rangers are 0-for-34 and 0-for-13 in this series alone. If Fleury is supposed to be Nick Swisher then the Rangers’ power play is Robinson Cano in the 2012 playoffs. In Game 3, the Rangers went 0-for-5 on the power play, including a scoreless four-minute power play, and it was their power play that led to Sidney Crosby’s first goal of the playoffs when he scored on a breakaway 19 seconds after a Pittsburgh penalty in the second period. And then later in the second, Jussi Jokinen jumped out of the box, picked up a loose puck, turned it into a breakaway, turned the breakaway into his fifth goal of the playoffs and ended the game. Two Penguins goals on two breakaways, both at the end of Rangers power plays.

The Rangers dominated the play in the game, outshooting the Penguins 35-15, but even the 13 Penguins shots that weren’t their breakaway goals were higher-quality scoring chances than all of the Rangers’ 35. Outside, low-percentage shots is what the Rangers’ offense has become over the last two games and because of it, they are now staring at the daunting task of going at least 3-1 against in order to advance against a team that won the division and finished second in the Eastern Conference despite losing the most man games in the league this year.

There’s not much to say about a 2-0 loss that’s following a 3-0 loss. But something needs to be said, so I will focus on the two players most important to the Rangers’ success and the two players who I have said all along would have to carry them if they were to make an extended run. One is doing his job and one isn’t.

– Rick Nash is now pointless in the last seven games and has still yet to score in these playoffs. He has played 22 playoff games for the Rangers over the last two years and has one goal. One. I’m not ready to light a match and throw it on the “Rick Nash is the Rangers’ A-Rod” fire yet and I’m not sure I ever will be, but it’s getting harder and harder to support the guy I wanted the Rangers to trade the entire system for at the 2012 deadline. The hardest part about his extended slump is that he is creating chances and is playing well aside from not actually putting the puck in the net. It’s gotten to the point where it’s laughable that he can’t seem to get one bounce to go his way while so many lesser players in the entire playoffs have found a way to score. It will happen. I just hope there’s enough time left in the season for it to happen.

– I couldn’t believe the Penguins only finished with 15 shots in the game since it felt like much more and once again Henrik Lundqvist did everything outside of stopping two breakaways to give his team a chance to win. But really, giving up two goals against the Penguins and their defense/goaltending situation should be enough to win, even in the playoffs, considering the Blue Jackets didn’t have a problem scoring against them in the first round. It’s scary to think there could be back-to-back shutouts in this series and they didn’t come from Lundqvist since goaltending is the one area where the Rangers have a considerable advantage over the Penguins. Lundqvist has done his job, the way he always done his job in the playoffs, and has held the Penguins to two goals in each of the first three games of the series and has held the best player in the world and possibly the second-best player in the world to a combined one goal and he has a 2-1 series deficit to show for it thanks to the offense. If the Rangers are eliminated by the Penguins, it won’t be Henrik Lundqvist’s fault. It never is.

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