Sunday, May 4, 2008

It's Penguins vs. Flyers for the Eastern Division Finals

It'll be a "Pennsylvania Battle Royale" to see who will be the Eastern Conference Champion and contest for Lord Stanley's Cup this year. This afternoon the New York Rangers fought valiantly, taking the game into overtime after coming back from a two goal deficit but in the end the Penguins proved too much. Trade deadline pickup Marian Hossa scored two goals this afternoon including the game winner in overtime, validating Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero's trade deadline deal making.

After a scoreless first period, Pittsburgh jumped to a 2-0 lead in the second on a power play goal by Marian Hossa at 8:45 and an even strength tally by Evgeni Malkin at 12:40. The Penguins truly dominated the second period outshooting the Rangers 17-4. However, during the third period the Rangers, aware they were facing elimination, fought back and scored two quick even strength goals - one at 2:02 by Lauri Korpiskowski and one at 3:25 by Nigel Dawes. Then the game settled into a give and take battle of nerves for the remaining 16 minutes, though the rangers did outshot the Pens 11-7 during the final stanza of regulation play. In overtime the Penguins seemed to generate a new sense of purpose and draw some energy from the Igloo home crowd outshooting the Rangers 5-0, before Hossa finished them off with the sixth shot of overtime at 7:10.

Throughout the series the Rangers played physical, tight games against the Penguins and Rangers' Goalie Henrik Lundqvist was a one man team at times, however it wasn't close to enough as the Penguins downed them 4 games to 1. A big part of the reason that Lundqvist's heroics weren't enough was that they were matched and at critical times surpassed at the other end of the ice by Marc-Andre Fleury. Despite involving two teams with names like Crosby, Malkin, Jagr, and Gomez on the roster, this series was more a goaltenders duel then anything else. Throughout the series the Pens got outstanding goal-tending from Marc-Andre Fleury, who was the #1 star of the game in game #2 (a 2-0 shutout victory for Penguins in which Lundqvist also stopped 24 of 26 shots and earned the games third star). Fluery was also the third star of the game in Game 3, a 5-3 Pittsburgh victory, where he stopped 23 of 26 shots while Lundqvist yielded 5 goals to the Pens on their 11 shots. In game 4, Fleury stopped 31 of the Rangers 34 shots however at the other end of the ice, Lundqvist was perfect stopping all 29 of the Penguins attempts and earning the first star of the game. In today's game Henrik Lundqvist stopped 37 of the Penguins 40 shots, a save percentage of 92.5% and earned the games third star, while Fluery stopped 20 of the Rangers 22 shots a save percentage of 90.90%. Now the Battle of the Keystone State will be waged to see who is the 2008 "Beast of the East". This two will be a physical series, featuring two hot goaltenders and two teams with great young teams, in two hockey-crazed cities Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. What are tickets going to go for on Broad Street for game 3 - any guesses?

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