Pens Show Rangers There’s Still Muscle in the Champs

It’s virtually a given in the contemporary National Hockey League that no team wins two Stanley Cups in succession. The Penguins are hoping to alter that trend.

Pittsburgh made a muscular point in that direction last night at The Garden, disposing of the Rangers, 6-1. All six of visitors’ goals came after Rick Nash elevated the locals with a first-period red light.

Steve Valiquette breaks down Rick Nash's goal against the Penguins.

That does not necessarily mean that Coach Mike Sullivan’s sextet will do what the Red Wings accomplished in 1997 and 1998 — capture two Cups in a row.

But Sidney Crosby, Inc. certainly displayed excellent rebound-ability following the Rangers’ victory in Pittsburgh on Monday night.

For the home club and its coach, the traumatic turnabout after the opening frame has left them mired in a State of Inexplicable.

“It’s difficult to explain,” admitted Alain Vigneault. “We played a strong first period and had some good ‘looks’ in the second, and then the game got away from us.”

Alain Vigneault says the game got away from the Rangers in the second period and states that the team will find a way to respond in Friday's contest against the Flyers.

And it got away from the Blueshirts’ starter in goal, Henrik Lundqvistwho eventually got the hook in favor of Antti Raanta, who had beaten the Penguins in Pittsburgh.

“After the first period,” King Henrik explained, “I got away from my game plan. I got away from a couple of things that I have to do against the Penguins.

Henrik Lundqvist says his awareness in the second period got away from him and wasn't good enough in the second period.

“It was about my ‘awareness’ after the first period. Pittsburgh plays a lot side-to-side and when I’m not aware of players, the game gets pretty tough. That’s what happened. My ‘awareness’ was not good enough in the second.”

WHAT WENT WRONG:

1. REPLAYING THE PLAYOFFS: The Penguins did what they did last Spring against New York in the postseason. They used their speed and skill to exploit the Rangers’ defense.

2. GOALTENDING: Lundqvist allowed four goals on 17 shots. He has struggled before against Pittsburgh. With 20-20 hindsight, Vigneault may have been better off starting Raanta.

3. DEFENSIVE BREAKDOWNS: There were times when the Penguins owned the puck in the New York zone. The Rangers were pinned in their own end for a minute-and-a-half at one point. Pittsburgh displayed a strong passing game in the Rangers zone.

4. LACK OF OFFENSE: The Rangers’ arsenal lost all its weaponry after the first period. “It got away from us,” asserted Derek Stepan, “and after that, we never were able to grab it back.”

The Blueshirts visit Philadelphia on Friday afternoon giving A.V. time to consider some lineup adjustments.

WHAT HAS TO BE DONE:

1. START KING HENRIK: History has shown us that Lundqvist rebounds well from harsh defeats. “I’ll definitely learn from it,” His Majesty promised. “I’ll check out my performance and see what I can do better.”

2. CHALK IT OFF AS ONE BAD NIGHT: “These are the players who enabled us to have a good start to the season,” Vigneault insisted. “I’m confident that they will help us respond the right away against the Flyers.”

3. EACH PLAYER MUST CHECK THE MIRROR: “Everybody on the club must hold himself accountable,” said captain Ryan McDonagh. “Our veterans will help everybody get back on the right page.”

Ryan McDonagh tries to explain what went wrong for the Rangers in their 6-1 loss to the Penguins.

OVERVIEW: The Penguins were hungrier. They counterattacked in the second after limiting the Rangers’ chances and turning them into opportunities of their own to break the game open.

LOOKING AHEAD: The Rangers-Flyers game on Friday starts at 1 p.m. TV, NBC. It’s time for the Seventh Avenue Skaters to put a winning streak together and regain confidence. It would be a good idea to start the streak right on Broad Streeet against the Flyers!