In their first two games, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been wildly inconsistent.
Facing another high-powered offense, Pittsbugh plays its first road game of the season at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers on Thursday.
The Penguins (1-1-0) opened their season with an impressive shutout victory over the Philadelphia Flyers before being blanked 2-0 Saturday by the Detroit Red Wings. Pittsburgh has yet to convert on eight power-play chances but has successfully killed off all 12 short-handed situations.
Despite the start, the Penguins seem to be a more cohesive unit with first-year general manager Ray Shero opting to rebuild with youth after predecessor Craig Patrick assembled a veteran-laden roster last season. Newcomers like Nils Ekman, Dominic Moore, Jarkko Ruutu and defenseman Mark Eaton have provided chemistry than high-profile acquisitions John LeClair, Mark Recchi, Ziggy Palffy and Sergei Gonchar from last season.
“I think we’ve developed a chemistry,” said Moore, a former Ranger. “We have a style where we try to make plays at both ends of the ice.”
The quartet have combined for four points and a plus-3 rating, but it’s the fact they are playing within themselves have the Penguins on the right track so far this season.
“We all know why we’re out there,” Penguins star center Sidney Crosby said. “We have to play within our roles. That’s how you win hockey games. That’s how you become a team.”
Crosby is expected to play despite a bruised hand, and Ekman also will play despite suffering a strained hamstring in practice Monday.
The Rangers (2-1-0) were denied their first 3-0 start in 17 years with Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to the Flyers. Brendan Shanahan had a goal and assist for New York, continuing his fast start at home, where he has two goals and an assist in two games this season
He also has 10 goals and 15 assists in 21 lifetime games at MSG..
New York came undone in a 5:26 span of the second period in which it allowed three goals after being fortunate to salvage a 1-1 tie after 20 minutes despite taking just two shots on goal. The lackluster play annoyed Rangers coach Tom Renney, who hopes the team will return to the style it played while winning its first two games.
“I’m not happy one bit,” Renney said. “There’s nothing good about tonight’s game at all in any way shape or form. There’s no question whether it was with goals or with territorial play, puck possession.
“It was a matter of us giving them the puck back and not even reaching a battle level that was close to Philly. We lacked the commitment with those things.”
The Rangers were 5-2-1 against the Penguins last season, outscoring them 30-18. Jaromir Jagr had seven goals and 11 points in those games and recorded a hat trick in a 6-1 win Nov. 12.
Crosby had five goals and five assists, and saved his best performance for the most recent game between the teams, a 5-3 win April 13 in which he had a goal and three assists.
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