For just the second time this season Penguins fans found themselves wondering just how many times the commentators on Versus were going to remind them that Pittsburgh Penguins center Jordan Staal and New York Rangers defenceman Marc Staal were brothers. (Admit it – it was a nice change in pace from being constantly reminded that the team remains without its captain.) In the end, it is very likely that fans on both sides lost count but after the final buzzer AND five minutes of sudden death overtime AND seven shootout attempts, Jordan would, once again, have yet another victory to bring to the family dinner table. (We won’t get into the fact that Jordan’s role in the victory was drastically reduced following a match penalty and subsequent game misconduct following a “scrap” with Rangers winger Brandon Prust – that is an entirely different subject on which opinions may vary.)
The Rangers were the first to get on the board, opening the scoring with 16:08 remaining in the first period as Brandon Prust banked in on a rebound. The Rangers would go on to score the second goal of the evening less than two minutes into the second period when Artem Anisimov picked up a mid-air pass from Brandon Dubinsky. The Pens would retaliate with three unanswered goals courtesy of Dustin Jeffrey (14:30), Mike Rupp (9:24) and Chris Kunitz (5:48) before Ryan Callahan (in his first game back after having missed 19) tied it up with twelve seconds remaining in the second. The third would see a lot of back and forth action, but both teams would be held scoreless. Following five minutes of sudden death over time, the game ended in a shootout with Dustin Jeffrey finally beating Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist in the seventh round as Marion Gaborik proved to be no match for Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Penguins were without center Mark Letestu who had moved up to replace Sidney Crosby on the top line, centering Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. Letestu left practice early this morning with a lower body injury and returned to Pittsburgh for further evaluation. Crosby remains sidelined with a “mild” concussion (although he has been cleared for light workouts) while center Evgeni Malkin continues to recover from a knee injury and a sinus infection. Winger Arron Asham left the game during the second period and is reported to have suffered from an upper body injury while center Jordan Staal was, as mentioned, given a game misconduct after coming to blows with Prust late in the second period. Staal may face a suspension (decision pending) but Malkin may return Wednesday night when the Penguins face the New York Islanders.
Prior to tonight’s game, Pittsburgh had owned the league’s top penalty-killing unit, having gone six consecutive games and ten out of the last eleven without allowing a power-play goal. They had been successful on 21 straight short-handed situations, 19 of which were faced on the road. (One has to wonder if the success of the penalty kill is directly related to the amount of time the team spends in the penalty box – then again this could very well be pointing out the obvious considering the increasing familiarity the team seems to be having with it *hint: that was a joke*.)
The Penguins return to Pittsburgh where they will face the New York Islanders for the second time in a week and a bit. Their last meeting occurred on January 25 and resulted in a 1-0 victory for the boys in black and Vegas gold.
1. Dustin Jeffrey
2. Ryan Callahan