If the NHL still wants to sit back and pretend that the Pittsburgh Penguins do not get preferential treatment, then they better destroy the tape of this game. The New York Rangers received six penalties while their opponents got zero. Most of the penalties were unfounded, and showed the league bias against teams facing the Penguins in their building, including a soft hooking call on Gaborik early in the third period, a holding call on Callahan shortly after when he barely even touched Malkin (who clearly embellished), and finally, the exclamation point on the refereeing fiasco, when Lundqvist was penalized for throwing his stick after giving up the second goal.
Despite the insanity in the penalty calls tonight, that have left me almost speechless, Henrik Lundqvist was spectacular and was the sole reason why the Rangers achieved victory tonight. He made 37 saves behind a team that was not very sharp, at least on offense until very late. The penalty killing was fantastic, and kept the Penguins 0-6 on the night, quite the thorn in the side of the referees who unblushingly made this game look like a rigged card game.
In the first period, the Rangers would hardly get any offensive pressure, and only record five shots on goal. The only difficult save Fleury had to make was a give-and-go with Frolov and Del Zotto, in which the defenseman cut to the net, and shot it into Fleury’s chest, sending him sliding back to the goal line. The Penguins would more than double the Rangers shot total, with 12, and Lundqvist had to be sharp early on. He made several big saves throughout the first and kept the game scoreless. He did not show one bit of rust, after missing the last two games with a bad head cold. The Rangers would also bring their fisticuffs from the previous game, as Ryan Callahan would fight Mike Comrie, a very even bout between two players who hardly ever fight. Callahan looked pretty good, though, and landed a few big punches before they both toppled to the ice.
The second period would be much like the first, as Lundqvist would stand on his head and the Rangers would get little offensive pressure. While recording only nine shots, the Rangers were able to make one count when Erik Christensen, a former Penguin, got to a rebound, pulled it back, turned and flicked it past Marc-Andre Fleury. Assists would go to another former Penguin, Ruslan Fedotenko and the other to Matt Gilroy, his second of the season. Through two periods, the Rangers penalty killing would be excellent, with Brandon Prust and Ryan Callahan doing a good job on the offensive in keeping the Penguins pinned in their own end. The period would end with the Penguins on the powerplay, the second half of a double-minor assessed to Marc Staal for high-sticking Pascal Dupuis. This would be a questionable call, as Staal and Dupuis both went down, and there was no call initially. It was only after Dupuis stayed on the ice for a few extra seconds and the referees saw he was bleeding was a penalty called.
With the Rangers up by one goal, the game would begin to get shaky with awful refereeing. The Penguins would have three powerplays in the third, not including one from the second that carried over. The Rangers would kill them all and not give the Penguins (or NHL) the satisfaction. Lundqvist was simply brilliant, but unfortunately, their luck would end as shortly after a powerplay expired with 2:31 remaining, Chris Kunitz lifted the puck over Lundqvist who was sprawled on the ice. 38 seconds later, the Penguins would take a 2-1 league and it looked like all hope would be lost—the game would finish how it was supposed to. If that was not bad enough, Lundqvist would show some emotion and break his stick over the crossbar, before throwing it across the ice. He would receive a penalty for this, further insulting the Rangers franchise with how biased this game was called.
It was here that was the turning point of the game. The Rangers could have easily given up and went home without a fight, but with a quick rush down the ice shorthanded, Marc Staal would score on an assist from Dubinsky, and tie the game with 1:26 remaining. After killing the unsportsmanlike penalty, Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan would have a 2-on-1 late in OT and after a nifty toe-drag, Dubinsky slid the puck to Callahan who buried it in the back of the net for the win.
Even with the victory, I am still incensed about this game. I never like to complain about officiating, or furthermore, claim there is a conspiracy in games involving the Penguins, but judge for yourself. This game looked anything but normal and it looked like the referees were helping the Penguins get back in this game. Sadly, it is nothing new—just listen to post-game interviews of players of all teams in the league after facing the Penguins.
On a positive note, Dan Girardi really showed some toughness tonight, after taking a puck to the face in the third period, sending blood pouring onto the ice, he would return later in the period, with fresh stitches above his nose, and blood not even having a chance to dry on his forehead. Michael Sauer and Steve Eminger were also very good, and Eminger’s play has gradually gotten better in recent games.
It also looks like there were no repercussions in the locker room after Christensen made some controversial comments about Sean Avery after yesterday’s game.
That is all for now; unfortunately, tonight’s game was about the referees.