Sports Hockey

NHL PLAYOFFS

Sidney Crosby ends goal drought as Penguins blank Rangers again 0

By Terry Koshan, Toronto Sun

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby skates in on a breakaway past Rangers defenceman Marc Staal and scores during second period action of Game 3 of their second round playoff series in New York on Monday, May 5, 2014. (Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby skates in on a breakaway past Rangers defenceman Marc Staal and scores during second period action of Game 3 of their second round playoff series in New York on Monday, May 5, 2014. (Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)

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NEW YORK - 

An off-Broadway show opened in Manhattan on Monday night, and you can bet the New York Rangers are hoping it won’t have a long run.

The Marc-Andre Fleury Show co-starring Sidney Crosby as himself enabled the Pittsburgh Penguins to again blank the Rangers in the Eastern Conference semifinal, this time to the tune of 2-0 just 24 hours after Fleury shut out the Rangers in Pittsburgh.

“It’s not easy, back-to-back nights, you throw that on top of it,” Crosby said. “He was great. He has been our best player all playoffs long.

“He looks really poised in there and confident. We did not generate a lot offensively, and when he was tested, he made some big saves.”

Fleury stopped 35 Rangers shots as Crosby broke a career-high 13-game goal-less streak in the post-season, and the Penguins found themselves with a 2-1 series lead in the best-of-seven. The Penguins can take a firm grip on Wednesday night in Game 4, and a victory would give them the opportunity to close the series on Friday.

But let’s stick to Game 3. Fleury, a night following a 22-save performance, got some help from the iron behind him, as the Rangers hit the post twice and the crossbar once.

As nice as it was from a Penguins’ perspective to see Crosby put his name on the scoresheet, it had to be doubly satisfying to witness the confidence demonstrated by Fleury.

The 29-year-old was in a zone and square to the puck, relying on a fast glove hand to pick Rangers shots out of the air when they appeared to be going into the net. That happened several times, leaving the crowd of 18,006 at Madison Square Garden and the Rangers increasingly frustrated.

As Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said before the game, eventually Crosby was going to score. But the questions had continued, even if they had petered out somewhat in recent days, about Fleury’s ability to lead his team to another Stanley Cup. If Fleury isn’t on top of his game, the Penguins won’t have a chance. That’s the way hockey works.

Certainly, there is plenty of playoff competition left, but Fleury is making the questions about his talent moot.

“It’s okay,” Fleury said with a little smile when he was asked about his confidence level. “I just tried to stop the next one, not thinking too much about the end result. It felt good.

“I don’t really read the press. I don’t care, really. I just try my best and try to win for my teammates.”

Crosby’s goal at 2:34 of the second period came after the Penguins had finished killing off a James Neal double-minor for high-sticking, and Jussi Jokinen extended his points streak to seven games when he scored with under five minutes to play in the second.

The Rangers — who had not been shut out in back-to-back playoff games since 1937 — held the Penguins to just 15 shots on Henrik Lundqvist, but their power-play woes have gone beyond ridiculous. The Rangers have not scored on 34 consecutive power plays.

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault had publicly challenged his top players before the game, saying it was time for them to “put on big-boy pants.”

That didn’t happen. Hockey pants were difficult enough.

“It’s disappointing, but you know what you’re going through,” Rangers forward Martin St. Louis said.

“You just try to keep pushing. We’ve played a lot of hockey lately. We’re going to come up for air and get ready for Game 4. I’m not worried.”

The Rangers should be concerned if Crosby has got on track and his goal was not a one-off.

“It’s nice both ways,” Crosby said about scoring and putting an end to the queries about when he would do so again. “The last couple of games, I tried to tell myself to go out there and compete and let things happen.”

WHEN CROSBY CALLS, 'YOU GET IT TO HIM'

It wasn’t “Iggy!”

For Sidney Crosby, though, the intent was the same.

And it worked, just like it did when Crosby yelled to Jarome Iginla for the puck in the gold-medal game at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, scoring what became known as the Golden Goal in overtime against the United States. Crosby, bursting into open ice early in the second period against the New York Rangers on Monday night, watched as defenceman Robert Bortuzzo corralled the puck.

The call went out, Crosby happily acknowledged afterward. “Oh yeah, you see open ice like that, you let him know,” the Pittsburgh Penguins superstar said with a grin, adding, “I was trying to make sure I got a good shot off.”

Crosby took the pass, skated in alone and beat Henrik Lundqvist between the legs for the game-winning goal in the Penguins’ 2-0 victory. It was Crosby’s first goal in 14 playoff games.

“When he is hollering, you get it to him, and that’s what I did,” Bortuzzo said.

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/koshtorontosun


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