Wednesday night Pittsburgh lost to the New York Rangers 5-1 in Madison Square Garden. Pittsburgh was coming off back-to-back victories beating the Columbus Bluejackets in a home and home. Pittsburgh came into the game 11-4 with a four game winning streak. Pittsburgh had three days off before going to New York.
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was the star of the game stopping 29 shots and only allowing one goal that came from off a power play goal from Kris Letang. Lundqvist made 12 of his 28 saves in the first period alone.
Pittsburgh was playing well in the first period, till Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan scored 65 seconds apart late in the first period giving the Rangers a 2-0 ending the first period.
The power play unit couldn’t get it done for Pittsburgh however on Wednesday night. Pittsburgh was 1/6 with power play opportunities. To add to Pittsburgh woes against the Rangers, New York had a total of 10 takeaways.
Pittsburgh has been one of the best teams this year in the NHL. Marc-Andre Fleury and Tampa Bay Lighting goalie Ben Bishop are the only two goalies that have 10 victories. Fleury’s been tested often early this season and has held his ground having a GAA of 2.07 which is fourth best in the NHL. In addition, Crosby still is leading the league in points with 23. However, one of the biggest factors has been injuries and the key pieces missing on the second line this season.
The second line that usually features Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Beau Bennett has only been Malkin this year. Neal and Bennett have both been sitting out due to injuries which has hurt Malkin’s goal production on the ice. Malkin has been rotating wingers with Chuck Kobasew, Jussi Jokinen and recent call up Jayson Megna. Recently, Megna has been been a very productive winger collecting 2 goals and 1 assist in the past five games. However, Malkin has been a contributing factor despite not being a goal scoring machine that he has used to being lately.
Despite the injuries, Pittsburgh is looking to gain back some of those key wingers. Bennett skated with the team for the fifth consecutive time on Friday and is hoping to play soon. Bennett will be a coaches decision Saturday against the St. Louis Blues. Bennett has not played since being placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury retroactive to Oct. 12. After losing to New York, Thursday was a positive day for Pittsburgh. Neal returned to full practice with the team. Neal has been on injured reserve after leaving the regular-season opener with an upper-body injury.
Defense has maintained their own so far this year. After they announced they would keep Oli Maata they lost Rob Scuderi to a broken ankle. Now that Letang is back the team, the defense will look to hold strong in the upcoming months.
Once this team gets healthy, Pittsburgh should have no problem getting passed opponents. Saturday, Pittsburgh will play a tough St. Louis team that is 6-2-2 in their last 10 games and is 10-2-2 on the season.