If there ever was a tale of two games, tonight's Rangers/Penguins game from Pittsburgh would surely be it.
The first period was great. Almost constant end to end action. Decisive puck movement. Hitting and physical play on every shift. Speed of the puck so that it became hard to follow at times. And despite not scoring powerplay goals, a powerplay where it was increasingly apparent the improved movement of the puck by the D with the man up.
That was the first tale. A one less commonly told this year for the men in blue but a welcome one to fans everywhere.
The third period was dreadful. (Disappointing. Upsetting. Disorienting. Ugly. Bad. - You choose your own adjective).
A smart and apparently clairvoiyant Steve Valiquette said in his 2nd intermission interview that he expected the next goal, the go-ahead goal, to be a bounce of some sort, a flukey goal if you will.
It's kind of scary how right he was.
The Penguins scored on one of those throw-the-puck at the net plays, and the bottom fell out. One goal turned the tides.
The Rangers who were not penalized for the first two periods(minus Orr's fighting major) lost discipline and looked to make up for it by taking a bunch of penalties at the worst time. Thirteen seconds after one Staal scored, the other Staal took the first of three consequtive Rangers penalties. Although the Penguins only scored one powerplay goal, the scene was set. They grabbed control of a game, that frankly, they were not controlling, and ran with it, right to the embarassing end.
I'm not saying not to credit the Penguins for jumping on the Rangers. They played it perfectly. An almost injured and supposedly not 100% Sydney Crosby sure looked fine as he scored once and had three assists in just over a 12 minute span.
Good teams take advantage. Bad teams let them.
My problem is not with the Penguins for how they came to play in the third. My problem is that the Rangers shouldn't have let that one goal turn the tide. And yet they did. And so very easily.
I just finished saying yesterday how this team, as it is with personnel and the defense they preach and believe, are not built to score many goals and compete with teams that do.
The Rangers could have come back from 2-1. A dominant Rangers team could have even perhaps come back from 3-1. But the dismantled group of guys that played in this second tale had no chance. When the Penguins went up 4-1 it might as well have been 20-0. The Rangers weren't coming back from that.
The better idea would have been to stop the bleeding at 2-1. But the Rangers don't seem to have that valve that turns the bad off. This is not the first game (Toronto's 5-2 blech fest in early November and Washington's 5-4 pre-Christmas present both come to mind) and I greatly fear it will not be the last in which the same thing happens.
I watched the post game interviews, where Paul Mara said it was "inexcusable," and Hank blamed himself. I'm not absolving him of all blame, because in fairness, he looked bad on some of the goals. But like the blech fest in Toronto that day where Vali was caught in net for a firestorm, I don't know if you blame the goalie when an entire team falls off the tracks. I don't.
I'm not sure what else I can say.
One team came into Mellon Arena and played an entertaining and effective first period. Another team came onto the ice in the third and worked very hard to tear apart all the good that the first team had done.
I am very disappointed that what was such an enjoyable and promising game turned so quickly into a game I'd like to very much forget.