Sunday, April 27, 2008

Fleury shut outs Rangers as Penguins take 2-0 series lead

Jaromir Jagr hit the nail on the head.
"This was more our game than Game 1, but we still didn't win it," the New York Rangers star said after Sunday's 2-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Indeed, the Rangers got the kind of game they wanted, slowing down the tempo and limiting the scoring chances against the high-flying Penguins. But they still lost. And that's got to be more than a little deflating for a Rangers team that usually comes out on top in these types of games.
"You know, we were better in terms of chances against ... but I think to a man they can still suggest to you they can play better and obviously we know we need to," said Rangers head coach Tom Renney.
"As much as it might have been a bit of an improvement tonight, our game is not where it needs to be in order to win the series."
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 26 shots for his second career playoff shutout as the Penguins took a 2-0 series lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal.
Two days after staging one of the most entertaining games in the NHL playoffs this spring, a 5-4 win by the Penguins, Game 2 was a low-risk affair and some would say a bit of a yawner.
Jordan Staal scored on the power play in the second period and Adam Hall added the other into an empty net with 16.7 seconds remaining as the Pens prevailed despite playing in the kind of tight-checking affair the Rangers prefer.
"We take pride in our defensive side of the game as well," said Staal, who excelled once again on the penalty kill. "We can play on both sides of the puck. We know what it takes to win. If it's a tight game we'll play a tight game, and if it's an open it up game we can open it up as well."
Henrik Lundqvist was terrific in goal for the Rangers, stopping 30 shots, but what he can't do is score goals. The Rangers had two late-game power plays but still couldn't score.
"It was crazy," Staal said of killing off the last two power plays. "We just tried to win every battle we could and just tried to get it out. Great job by Flower, he played unbelievable. And our penalty kill has been pretty good so far and we want to keep doing it."
Game 3 goes Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden (CBC, 7 p.m. ET).
"We just have to go back home, and still feel confident that we can beat this team," said Lundqvist, whose team was 4-0-0 against Pittsburgh at home this season. "Go back to New York, worry about ourselves, get two wins."
It might a physical first period Tuesday night. Things got a little nasty at the buzzer Sunday, Rangers agitator Sean Avery trading punches with Penguins defenceman Hal Gill.
"He whacked Flower at the end of the game," Gill said.
Fleury shrugged off Avery's antics.
"I just got a couple of whacks behind my legs," said Fleury. "And then my defence came in and took care of him pretty good. It's no big deal, it's part of playoff hockey."
Jagr also did some verbal jousting with Pittsburgh star Sidney Crosby in the first period.
"I'm not going to tell you what I said," said Jagr, before later adding, "I wished him good luck."
Crosby also didn't want to get shed light on it.
"Just ask him," said Crosby. "I wasn't the one talking."
Lundqvist, meanwhile, was the reason the game was scoreless in the first half of the game, stopping Marian Hossa on a breakaway in the first period and making a series of saves on the second period on Ryan Malone and Hossa. Pittsburgh finally broke through on a power play at 13:55, Staal taking a pass in front from Evgeni Malkin and deftly lifting a shot under the crossbar. Mellon Arena was rocking.
The Penguins shut it down defensively in the third, clogging up the neutral zone and limiting New York's chances.
"That's one thing about our team, we can do it both ways," said Staal. "We're great defensively, we're solid on both sides of the puck. This team really seems to find ways to win and that's what we did today."
Rangers forward Martin Straka thought he had the game tied with 4:14 remaining in the third, poking the puck under Fleury. But the whistle had gone before the puck went in and it was disallowed.
"I knew I had it underneath my pads and the guy kept swinging at my pads," said Fleury. "I was glad when the ref finally blew it."
The Rangers didn't argue the decision.
"I thought it was an accurate call," said Renney. "I don't know if it was a quick whistle or what. But if his intention was to blow the whistle and it hasn't crossed the goal line, that seems like that's fair."
Both teams complained loudly about the quality of the ice after Game 1. It was better in Game 2, thanks to the arrival Saturday of NHL ice guru Dan Craig.
"It was good," said Penguins head coach Michel Therrien.
"Yes it was a bit better," added Crosby. "As the game goes on it's probably tougher to maintain ... but I thought definitely for the first half there was definite improvement there."
Colorado Avalanche have question marks in net going into Game 3
Just two weeks ago, Jose Theodore sheepishly was fending off comparisons to Hall of Famer Patrick Roy that were coming at him fast and furious like so many shots from the Minnesota Wild.
Now, he's sick and the Colorado Avalanche are ailing.
Theodore has been pulled in each of the Avs' two losses in the Western Conference semifinal series at Detroit, where he surrendered eight goals in less than four periods.
Peter Budaj has stopped 19 of 20 shots in his place, leading to speculation that he'll get the start in Game 3 when the series shifts to Denver on Monday night.
"We'll talk about everything," Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said. "But Jose has been our guy. Coming off what he went through is not easy. Budaj did a nice job in relief."
The Red Wings successfully switched their goaltenders midway through the first round of the playoffs, benching Dominik Hasek in Game 4 while losing their second straight in Nashville, and Chris Osgood has won all four starts since.
Avs forward Ian Laperriere suggested the solution in Colorado might not have anything to do with who's minding the net.
"I think we need to play better in front of our goalie," Laperriere said. "We're not playing as strong as we did in front of our goalie as we did in the first series."
Theodore said he'll be ready to start Game 3, "but it's not my call."
The banged-up Avalanche have more concerns than just their goaltender. Peter Forsberg didn't play in either of the first two games after the team said he aggravated a strained groin in the skatearound before Game 1.
"He knows his body and he said he was unable to go," Quenneville said after Game 2. "He's made a real impact since he's been there. He gives the opposition a lot to think about. We think he's pretty close."
Detroit coach Mike Babcock is counting on Colorado coming back at full strength in Denver.
"Forsberg will be back. Theodore is sick. He'll be back, and he'll be better," Babcock said.
That's part of his message about not relaxing with a 2-0 lead like the Red Wings did in the first round.
"All we have to do is go back to the last series. We were in the same scenario, and we went to Nashville and didn't win a game (until Game 6)," Babcock said.
With Forsberg out and watching and Theodore sick and struggling, nobody has capitalized more than Johan Franzen, who had two goals in Detroit's series-opening 4-3 win and scored three times in the Red Wings' 5-1 victory Saturday night.
To get back into this series, the Avalanche are going to have to figure out a way to stop the "Mule."
"He's got a hot stick right now," Quenneville said. "Everything he touches seems to be going in. We have to be a little more tighter to him."
A return to stellar play in net, be it from Theodore or Budaj, along with Forsberg's return to the ice would help the Avalanche make a series of it.
"I'm pretty sure that, unless Forsberg's leg's gonna fall off, he'll probably be in there for Game 3," Detroit enforcer Darren McCarty said. "And they're a veteran team. They're well-coached and they've got guys that have been in different situations like this before. It's not like they're a young team, so they can draw on a lot of experience.
"And we have to draw on the experience of being in this position in the last round. We've been in this position against Colorado before, a lot of us."
Colorado trailed Detroit 2-0 in 1999 before winning four straight.

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