There was a lot of hype surrounding this game going in, and the Rangers and Penguins lived up to every last bit Thursday night at the Garden. The Penguins were looking to pass New Jersey for the Atlantic Division lead for the first time in months, while the Rangers looked to get their first regulation win against Pittsburgh this year in their final meeting.
It was not to be for New York, as they were outshot 55-16 and could not hold leads of 1-0 and 4-2, despite a heroic performance in net by Henrik Lundqvist, who did everything he could - including just about every kind of save imaginable - to get this one in the "W" column for New York.
Everything just wasn't quite enough.
Chris Kunitz answered for the Penguins on the PP at 6:03, firing in one from a sharp angle behind Lundqvist that may have deflected off his back on the way in.
Then, at about 10:05, Jordan Staal came streaking down the right side and fired one toward the net, with Matt Cooke crashing the net and drawing the attraction of NY's Brian Boyle. The puck appeared to deflect off the leg of Boyle and into the net at 9:58, giving Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead. The goal withstood a video review, and play continued.
It did not last very long, however, as about 5 minutes later, with Brooks Orpik in the box for interference, Chris Drury ducked to avoid the initial shot from the point, then, from his knees, wrapped the puck around the leg of Marc-Andre Fleury to tie the game at two. Action continued at both ends for the remainder of the period, but no more goals were scored. At the end of the first, the Pens held a slight edge in shots at 10-8.
The Pens came out strong to start the second, but fell behind by two as Michael Rozsival came down the right side and put one over the shoulder of Fleury at 2:03, and Brandon Dubinski shot one from near the blue line that found its way past a screened Fleury with Crosby in the box for highsticking at 12:49, prompting Pens coach Dan Bylsma to replace Fleury with Brent Johnson.
After Johnson's entrance, the Pens really came to life, whether because of the goalie change or something else, because the Rangers would only have 4 more shots on goal the rest of the game.
At 14:34, the Pens caught the Rangers too deep in the Pens end (one of multiple occasions this occured on the night), and cashed in, with Chris Kunitz flipping the puck up and off the boards to a fresh Crosby from the bench. Crosby did a bit of a split to stay onside on the play, then gave the puck off to Mike Rupp, who fired it over the shoulder of Lundqvist to snap his goal scoring drought and cut the deficit to one. After the second, the Rangers led 4-3.
Finally, up by one in the final period, the Rangers could not mount any sustained offensive pressure, and created a very untenable situation for themselves, going more than 15 minutes combined between shots on goal in the second and third (though they did shoot a couple wide and hit one post). In the meantime, the Penguins recorded 12 shots from just about every angle possible, including the tying goal, scored by Alex Goligoski on another bad-angle shot that appeared to go off the skate of another Rangers defenseman, this time Marc Staal, and past Lundqvist. The Penguins ended up outshooting the Rangers 15-1 in the period.
OT was slightly more balanced in terms of offense, but Wade Redden's hook on Evgeni Malkin near the Rangers blue line proved to be the Rangers downfall, as the Penguins scored on a hard shot by Jordan Staal that got under the arm of Henrik Lundqvist and in.
Lundqvist truly did just about everything in his power to get this one for New York, but in the end, Pittsburgh's 55 shot onslaught - a new career high for shots against for the New York goalie - and 55-16 SOG-SA differential was just too much for the Rangers to overcome.
With the win, Pittsburgh moves past New Jersey and into first place in the Atlantic Division for the first time since early December. It should be a great stretch run as those two battle it out for likely the second seed in the conference.