Ryan McDonagh (l.) takes punishment from Penguins throughout Game 4, but stays sharp.
PITTSBURGH — Rangers assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson described captain Ryan McDonagh’s Game 4 performance in one word.
“Unreal,” said the two-time Stanley Cup winning former NHL defenseman.
McDonagh recorded an assist in a game-high 24:45 of ice time and absorbed the physical Penguins’ biggest hits and best attempts at disruption to skate the Rangers out of trouble. He had a running battle with Pens agitator Steve Downie and wouldn’t back down.
Derick Brassard’s game-tying goal at 17:15 of the second period was jump-started by a Mats Zuccarello cross-ice pass to McDonagh, who fired through the neutral zone down the left wing and dropped a pass to Rick Nash in the corner.
McDonagh eventually swung around and put one shot off Marc-Andre Fleury’s pad and the post, before Brassard jammed home the rebound.
“It’s nice when he joins into the play like that, it gives me an option,” Zuccarello said. “And then we skate it to the net and get a lucky bounce. It’s a good play by Brass finding the net, too.”
Nobody enjoys playing the Penguins more than Brassard. Since the top-line center joined the Rangers on April 3, 2013, Brassard has 21 points (12 goals, nine assists) in 21 regular-season and playoff games against Pittsburgh including three goals in this series .
Seven of his 11 career postseason goals have come against the Pens.
“We got that goal, and once we got that, we looked like a team with a lot of confidence, a lot of jump,” said Carl Hagelin, who assisted on Kevin Hayes’ overtime winner.
DAN’S THE MAN
Top-pair defenseman Dan Girardi, who helped the Rangers avert disaster late in the third by clearing a puck away from an open net, took a hard shot to his right calf when he blocked a Chris Kunitz shot early in overtime. Girardi moved slowly to the bench and had the calf wrapped after the game but said it’s not serious.
“Just hit the calf, the meat,” he said.
Deadline acquisition Keith Yandle skipped the Rangers’ morning skate for a second straight game day on Wednesday with an illness but remained in the lineup for Game 4 and logged 20:27 of ice time, blocking two shots. He committed several early turnovers but helped generate the forecheck that led to Hayes’ game-winning goal.
Kevin Klein (broken left arm) sat out Game 4, but the injured Rangers defenseman is getting close to his first action since March 11. Klein skated with the full team on Wednesday morning for the second time in three days, and he took slap shots for a second straight day. A Game 5 return is a possibility.
The NHL has set the start time for Game 5 of Rangers-Penguins at 7 p.m. on Friday at the Garden. The game will be broadcast locally on MSG. If there is a Game 6, it would be Sunday at a time to be determined and televised on NBC. Game 7, if necessary, would be Tuesday night on MSG at an undetermined time.
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