The Rangers are back in the driver’s seat after taking Game 3 in Pittsburgh for a 2-1 series lead.
PITTSBURGH – The Steel City is starting to feel like a home away from home for the Rangers.
The Presidents’ Trophy winners put a miserable Game 2 loss behind them and bounced back for a 2-1 Game 3 victory Monday night at CONSOL Energy Center to take a 2-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
Wingers Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider netted the two Ranger goals as Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves, 13 of which came in a nervy third period.
Just as they did in Game 1, the Rangers allowed the Penguins to cut into a two-goal lead as Patric Hornqvist cut New York’s lead in half with 6:48 left in the game after a scramble in front, igniting the crowd into a thunderous roar, but the Rangers were able to hold on in nail-biting fashion for the second time in the series.
Following Game 2’s lackluster effort, the Rangers controlled the puck and dictated the pace throughout the first period as the Penguins didn’t register a shot on goal for the first 15:10 of the period. They seemed comfortable in a building they’ve had success in dating back to last year’s second-round series, when the Rangers won three of the four games played in Pittsburgh. The best road team in the NHL during regular season (28-11-2) also went 1-0-1 here during the regular season.
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist makes some big saves to thwart Pittsburgh’s comeback attempt.
Hagelin tallied his first goal of the playoffs at 8:43, beating Marc-Andre Fleury (24 saves) five-hole after receiving a pristine tape-to-tape stretch pass from defenseman Keith Yandle, who played despite not participating in the morning skate because he wasn’t feeling well. The puck-moving, trade-deadline acquisition notched his second assist of the playoffs. Dan Girardi, who was a force on both ends of the ice, also earned his first of two assists in the game.
In the lead-up to the goal, Yandle bumped Sidney Crosby, who lost possession of the puck, and Penguins fans were furious because they believed Crosby was interfered with, but no penalty was called, allowing the Rangers to take their third 1-0 lead of the series.
Pittsburgh finally put a shot on Lundqvist’s goal with 4:50 left in the period, a 71-foot slapshot from defenseman Ben Lovejoy. Crosby hit the post with a one-timer at the right circle 55 seconds later, but the Penguins finished the period with only three shots, controlling the tempo thanks in part to strong forechecking by the fourth line.
The Rangers doubled their lead at 11:07 of the second period when Marc Staal sent the puck off of the end boards, which appeared to be a deliberate move as opposed to a missed shot, and the puck ricocheted directly to Kreider, who beat Fleury at the left post to score his first goal of the playoffs. Fleury was playing off the post and was too late in getting back when he realized Kreider was ready and waiting.
The goal came after an improved two-minute power play in which Rick Nash had the best chance, chasing down the puck in the right corner and reeling off a pair of shots near the right post, both saved by Fleury. The Rangers looked far more competent with that man-advantage than they did throughout Game 2 and their first power play of the game early in the first period, when they didn’t put a shot on net.
Ryan McDonagh (r.) and Patric Hornqvist battle for possession in the 2nd period.
Penguins fans were hollering at the officials once again for a non-call on defenseman Dan Boyle before the Rangers’ second goal after it appeared he hooked Maxim Lapierre.
Lundqvist was the victim of some aggression in his crease by a pair of Penguins in the second period. Just after a stoppage of play with 6:37 left in the period, Lundqvist fell over after Crosby skated by him. It was unclear if contact was actually made, but Penguins fans booed mercilessly at what they perceived as a dive. With 3:51 left in the period, Chris Kunitz fell right into Lundqvist, flattening him on the ice.
Crosby got up close and personal with Lundqvist again in the third when he brought the puck out from the right corner and across goal, trying to beat him left post, but Lundqvist made a stick save with his stick down on the ice to deny Pittsburgh’s captain.
The Rangers had huge opportunities to extend their lead in the third before Pittsburgh scored, but Girardi and Derek Stepan whiffed on pucks near the left post.
Game 4 is here Wednesday at 7 p.m.
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