Pittsburgh Penguins (18-6-2) at New York Rangers (11-10-4)
|Date & Time||Monday December 8, 2014, 7:00 PM (EST)|
The Line: New York Rangers / Pittsburgh Penguins --- Over/Under:
|TV Channel||Stream NHL games all season on ESPN+ for only $4.99 a month. Sign up now!|
The New York Rangers return home to host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night at Madison Square Garden. Right now the Rangers are in the midst of a challenge schedule that has them playing so sporadically that it's hard to find a rhythm. Saturday night they traveled to Detroit to take on the Red Wings and got off to an extremely good start before things fell apart quickly. After surviving some early penalty trouble the Rangers finally got their legs underneath them and their speed became evident. New York was generating chances left and right and it was defeseman Kevin Klein who moved up from his spot on the blue line and was able to pound in a centering feed from Kevin Hayes past Jimmy Howard to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Later in the period Derick Brassard found Rick Nash with a beautiful back hand outlet pass that sprung him for a breakaway. Nash has been incredible for New York this season and he made the most of his opportunity, beating Howard for New York's second goal of the night and a 2-0 lead. In the second period New York stayed incontrol, really limiting Detroit's opportunities and keeping things in front of them. The problem for the Rangers was that they weren't able to capitalize on their power play chances and not getting that next goal proved costly. Detroit took advantage of some sloppy play and got on the board with under six minutes remaining in the period, and just over a minute later the Red Wings tied things up. It all happened so quickly and it clearly changed the momentum in this game heading into the third. New York was unable to generate much in a very conservative third period for both clubs, but another mistake cost them and Darren Helm scored what proved to be the game winner in the 3-2 defeat. It was a difficult loss for New York because the club played so well after the early stages of the first period. Cam Talbot got the start in net and was very solid for most of the game, but he'd certainly like to have back some of the goals he allowed. Henrik Lundqvist should be back in net on Monday night for the Rangers and they need him to pick up his play because it hasn't been at the level that anyone would expect this year. The Rangers continue to generate offense this season but their defense and goaltending has been suspect, and that's something we haven't said in a very long time.
For the Pittsburgh Penguins it's about trying to survive a lot of these injuries that they're dealing with an find a way to forge an identity. The Penguins have still been finding ways to win but their offense has been as potent as we've seen from them. Saturday afternoon they hosted the Ottawa Senators and got some production from guys they expect to lead the way. Evgeni Malkin opened the scoring early in the first period with his 13th goal of the season to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead. Pittsburgh would allow the Senators to tie the game with a power play goal early on in the second and the Senators would take the lead on Mika Zibanejad's tally at 8:44 of the middle period. But Malkin would find a way to score his second of the night with the Penguins on the power play late in the period and it set the stage for a dramatic ending. The two clubs played a low risk third period with not a lot of chances being generated by either team. It came down to the final minutes before Christian Ehrhoff scored for just the second time this season to give the Penguins a huge 3-2 win. Now the club will have to get ready to play in a building where they were whitewashed 5-0 the last time they played here. It's also important for the Penguins to really keep finding ways to beat a team like the Rangers because these are the types of teams they're going to need to figure out how to defeat come playoff time. Marc-Andre Fleury was strong again in this one and stopped 27 of the 29 shots he faced to pick up his 15th victory of the season.
The last time these teams played we saw a wild shootout that looked like the Rangers had emerged victorious in, only to have a review overturn that and the Penguins ultimately walk away with the 3-2 win. New York is hard to pin point right now because their lack of games recently makes their play a bit eratic. Pittsburgh hasn't been dominant by any means but the club just keeps finding ways to win games.