Every night during the playoffs, we will wrap up all the exciting action and tell you what you need to know about the 2013-14 Stanley Cup playoffs. Welcome to What You Need To Know.
Pittsburgh Penguins: We just saw the best game of this postseason from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Aside from some early penalty problems, they were just about flawless. They were all over the Rangers once they got out of penalty trouble and just took it to the Rangers. If they play like that all the time, they're going to incredibly tough to beat. They attempted 64 shots to New York's 41 despite two fewer power plays. They were the team with a bit more rest coming into this series and it showed. The big names were the big guys with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and yes, Marc-Andre Fleury playing very strong games. They defended well too in this game, giving the Rangers very little hope of making a comeback. Playing with a lead has been an adventure for teams in the playoffs but not the Penguins in Game 2.
New York Rangers: In Game 2 the Rangers almost looked like a team that was playing its fourth game in six days with a fifth coming on the horizon because they had little jump on Sunday. As has been the case for almost the entire playoffs, the power play was just brutal. It's a stagnant unit and not comfortable or confident right now. The Penguins were aggressive in pressuring the points and that only further hurt a unit that has now gone 29 straight attempts without a goal. It's hard to keep winning when you're not producing anything, not even momentum, from those attempts. This is a brutal way to head into a tough back-to-back.
Play of the Game: This was your GWG, not the prettiest such goal you'll ever see. It was a nice rush by the Penguins and Kris Letang fired the puck toward the net and Chris Kunitz. It was actually deflected in off a diving Dan Girardi's stick so the goal was Letang's. It might have been a goal if it got to Kunitz anyway, though.
Player of the Game: Though the Rangers as a team had a poor game, Henrik Lundqvist absolutely did not. He was sensational, somehow keeping the Rangers in the game when they otherwise didn't belong. In total Lundqvist stopped 32 of 34 shots he saw and hardly any of them seemed to be of the garden variety. Only one of those goals against came off a Penguins stick and that was on the power play. So yea, quite a night for Lundqvist. Sidney Crosby was exceptional too but ended up without a point because of Lundqvist. Marc-Andre Fleury gets the shutout but he wasn't asked to make as many tough saves as Lundqvist.
Turning Point: Once the Penguins killed three penalties in the first 10 minutes of the game, they took over. Normally the Penguins aren't the stronger of these teams at even strength but on this night they absolutely were and when they add their full complement of players on the ice, it wasn't terribly close even if the score was.
GIF of the Game: You can't begrudge Dan Carcillo for doing what he can to draw a penalty in the playoffs but he nearly snapped his neck throwing it back so hard after Matt Niskanen's ill-advised contact to Carcillo's head. That's a good way to get whiplash (via @MyRegularFace).
Chicago Blackhawks: It was a dominant first period, but the same can't really be said about the rest of the game. One thing the Blackhawks did exceptionally well was closing up the gaps defensively to force the Wild to work from the outside through the neutral zone instead of the middle of the ice as we saw some in Game 1. They also did a great job of getting in the shooting lanes, blocking 25 shots to Minnesota's 11. Put another way, Blackhawks defenders stopped more shots in this game than Corey Crawford did. All in all, a good, not great game for the Blackhawks, but there's little complaining about taking a 2-0 series lead to Minnesota.
Minnesota Wild: For the first half of the game, the Wild were pretty terrible. They had two shots on goal in the first period, a number that was pretty indicative of how they played. The were poor in the neutral zone and their stretch passes were being shut down. A power play helped them get going, though, and for the remainder of the game they really outworked the Blackhawks. They were able to get back in the game and did have the better control of play the rest of the game but still only ended up with 19 shots on goal. Chicago was blocking a lot but that still won't get it done. The good news is they were pretty close again and that bodes well for when they head home.
Play of the Game: The Wild were so close to tying this game early in the third period, not long after making it a one-goal game. Zach Parise found a little room in the slot and got off a quick shot that Corey Crawford was just able to get a piece of as it fluttered over his head toward the net. Crawford then swatted the puck on top of the cage with his paddle in what was likely a goal-saving swat. Take a look at the GIF to get a different and perhaps more telling look.
Player of the Game: Bryan Bickell really likes the playoffs, doesn't he? The Blackhawks forward who had a monster playoffs last year that led to a big contract extension is at it again. He had only 11 goals and four assists this season but on Sunday he had a goal and and two assists with another shot he rang off the post in the third period. That's now five goals and three assists in eight playoff games. Crazy. Marian Hossa was spectacular, too, as usual. He was probably better than Bickell but we wanted to spread the love because Hossa could be the player of the game almost every game.
Turning Point: Late in the second period, the Wild started to turn the tide and were trying to crawl back in. That's when the Blackhawks got a little offensive-zone time and Patrick Kane appeared to be falling to the ice at the blue line. A questionable penalty was called on Minnesota, and while the Blackhawks didn't technically score on the power play, Brandon Saad scored just as it expired and Chicago had a two-goal lead. Corey Crawford's save above also a good point.
GIF of the Game: Nobody is safe in the Stanley Cup playoffs, not even trainers on the bench. A kerfuffle in front of the Wild bench resulted in a stick upside the head of the trainer. So who takes care of him? Via @cjzero.