By Sarah Kwak, SI.com
The neutral zone was anything but in Sunday afternoon's Game 2 between the Rangers and Penguins, which Pittsburgh won 2-0. There were, of course, the partisan words being shared between the two clubs (pretty evenly matched there), and then there was the hockey (Penguins clearly over the Rangers). Pittsburgh dominated in between the blue lines, pinching, poke-checking, pressing New York back into its own zone at every opportunity. The Penguins weren't waiting for the puck, or the win, to come to them; they were intent on seizing it when they could.
Their work on the power play made that point clear. During their first two power play opportunities of the game, the Penguins fired off eight shots in just five minutes with the man-advantage. Perhaps it was just a matter of time before one went in. With Rangers center Chris Drury, the team's leader in short-handed minutes during the regular season, serving time in the penalty box, Pittsburgh went for the net, set up some really nice looks that either just missed or were superbly denied by Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
But with about half a minute left on the power play, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin centered a pass right in front of the net to Jordan Staal. The winger, who received it on his backhand, quickly switched to his forehand and flicked the puck up, making Lundqvist's water bottle dance on top of the the net as the red light went off. With his first goal of the series, the 19-year-old center, younger brother to Rangers' defenseman Marc Staal, gave the Penguins the lead they'd do almost anything to keep.
The Penguins continued to own the neutral zone, which also helped them kill a couple of penalties down the wire. But not without a bit of a scare. About 14 minutes into the third period, Pittsburgh forward Petr Sykora reported to the box for hi-sticking Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi. On the power play, the Rangers unleashed a flurry of shots on Marc-Andre Fleury (I'm sorry; I can't resist a bad joke), one of which trickled in under him, but not before the whistle blew to stop the play and ultimately disallowed the goal.
With a minute left on the power play, New York pulled Lundqvist to gain a two-man advantage -- Hal Gill was called with a cross-checking penalty with 2:23 left in the game. But the Penguins shut it down, and Adam Hall cleared the puck right into the empty net to seal the win and a 2-0 series lead heading to New York on Tuesday.
- Dive or No Dive? Penguins captain Sidney Crosby had to field criticism about staying on his feet from reporters, and even Rangers' captain Jaromir Jagr, who shared some words with the 20-year-old center after drawing a holding call in the first period. "[I told him to] just play hockey," the former Penguin said. "That's all." All this hubbub followed an interference call in Game 1 that set up a power play game-winner, a Crosby one-timer that deflected off the leg of Evgeni Malkin. In this case, however, Fedor Tyutin had his free hand on Crosby's shoulder and visibly pushed him down.
- Jarkko Ruutu, Pittsburgh's answer to Sean Avery, has been more visible than The Uns-Avery One these days. His stick in the face of Michal Rozsival in the face-off circle during Game 1 was funny -- albeit childish. And he's the one doling out the words, reminding Jagr of a brutal hit he laid on the Rangers winger during the 2006 Olympics. And his goal in Game 1 sparked the Penguins comeback.
- Rangers' Ryan Callahan may be the most efficient guy on the ice. In just 11:48 of playing time, the rookie winger had 4 hits and a team-high five shots on goal and another two shots that flew wide.
- Coming into the series, Pittsburgh kept mentioning the Rangers' superior shot-blocking abilities as something they'd pay attention to, something that could be a real threat. Seems like all the talk really rubbed right off of the Rangers and onto the Pens; Pitt blocked 22 shots to New York's nine in Game 2.
- One battle New York certainly won in Sunday's game was in the face-off circle. Only Malkin could muster at least 50% on the draw. Rangers' Chris Drury, who struggled to win face offs against the New Jersey Devils (39.4%) for most of the first series, is faring much better against Pittsburgh (61.1%).
- Even though New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist now has two losses in the series, that's no real fault to him. The Swede hasn't folded under pressure -- that is, he's been staying a bit more upright in between the pipes.
- Sean Avery, meet Hal Gill. After giving Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury a few love taps as the last seconds of the game wound down, the pesky winger drew the ire of 6'7" defenseman Gill, who along with 6'3" Georges "The Enforcer" Laraque, seemed to engulf the 5'10" Avery as both teams quickly swarmed in for a final little scrum.
- The shutout is Fleury's second this postseason, tying him with another young goalie, Montreal's Carey Price, for most in the league. The 23-year-old netminder, who battled injury throughout the season, has yet to lose a playoff game this year, and his .944 save percentage is tops for a team's No. 1 goalie. Colorado's Peter Budaj, Calgary's Curtis Joseph and Detroit's Chris Osgood, all boasting higher percentages, came in relief of their team's playoff starters.