Thursday, May 08, 2014
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Penguins Take 3-1 Series Lead On Rangers

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[May 08, 2014]  NEW YORK -- The Pittsburgh Penguins turned in a strong defensive effort, despite being down a man, thwarting the New York Rangers 4-2 in Game 4 of the Metropolitan Division finals at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday.

The Penguins lead the best-of-seven series 3-1 and can close it out in Game 5 on Friday in Pittsburgh. A win would put the Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals for the second straight year. They lost to the Boston Bruins in last season's conference final.

Pittsburgh received goals from left wingers Chris Kunitz and Jussi Jokinen, and centers Brandon Sutter and Evgeni Malkin, who also recorded an assist.

Left winger Carl Hagelin and center Mats Zuccarello scored for New York, which lost back-to-back games at home and three straight overall.

The Rangers never led in the game and spent most of the night chasing the play. They gave the puck away 25 times and won only 18 of 49 faceoffs.

"We didn't pick a good night to manage the puck the way we did tonight," said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. "I don't want to take any credit away from Pittsburgh. They forced the play and they played a real solid game without the puck that obviously forced us into a lot of those turnovers.

"But our puck management wasn't good and that ultimately cost us the game."

The Rangers continued their power-play woes, failing to score on two chances in the second period. New York hasn't scored on the power play since Game 3 of the first round against the Philadelphia Flyers, a streak of 36 straight chances, tying the league mark for futility set by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2007 playoffs.

Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury faced only 14 Rangers' shots, just four in the third period, and allowed just five goals in four games in the series, including shutouts in Games 2 and 3.

New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves.

Pittsburgh controlled the game by employing five defensemen for most of the night. Defenseman Brooks Orpik skated just 5:15 before leaving the contest with an undisclosed injury. Orpik was playing in his first game of the series after suffering an injury in the first round against Columbus.

Defenseman Paul Martin and Kris Letang shared much of the workload on the backline, logging 30 minutes and 27:56, respectively. In addition to being on the ice for regular shifts, defensemen Olli Maatta and Rob Scuderi skated on Pittsburgh's penalty kill unit.

"It was rough about 16 minutes into the game when (Brooks) Orpik went down," said Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma. "They (New York) came at us with a lot of speed.

"Our defense had to do an unbelievable job. I can't say enough about the defense and what they did back there. Those five guys back there played a lot of minutes. They are always standing up and using the skate to defend and break up the play."

Zuccariello's back-handed goal, his third of the playoffs, cut the Penguins lead to 3-2 at 13:07, but Kunitz scored 57 seconds later to move Pittsburgh's lead back to two goals.

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Jokinen turned around from the right circle and fired a wrist shot from left winger James Neal at 7:02 to provide the Penguins with a 3-1 cushion and his team-leading sixth goal of the playoffs. Jokinen is tied with Los Angeles Kings forward Marian Gaborik for the league lead in goals in the playoffs.

Pittsburgh's third short-handed goal of the playoffs allowed it to move ahead 2-1 at 18:27 of the second period. With Malkin serving a tripping penalty, Letang chipped the puck ahead to center Brian Gibbons who skated in alone on Lundqvist.

Gibbons couldn't get a shot off the sprawled Lundqvist, but Sutter, who was trailing the play, sent the puck over the Rangers goalie for his fourth goal of the playoffs.

"I think when you play against this team you have to realize that every little play matters," said Rangers forward Brad Richards. "They have the skill and they do make you pay if you're not careful."

Hagelin tied the score at 1 in the second period when he skated between two Pittsburgh defensemen after receiving a stretch pass from defenseman Ryan McDonagh at 5:30. Hagelin's wrist shot ended Fleury's scoreless streak at 145:30.

The Penguins took advantage of some sloppy play in front of the Rangers net in grabbing a 1-0 lead early in the game. New York defenseman Marc Staal failed to gather a loose puck eight feet to the left of Lundqvist and Malkin was there to send a back-hander home for his fifth goal of the playoffs just 2:31 in.

"We went after them (New York) and didn't sit back," said Pittsburgh center Sidney Crosby. "We didn't allow them to have much time and space."

NOTES: RW Chris Kreider returned to the Rangers' lineup after missing 19 games due to a broken hand. He skated on a line with C Derek Stepan and LW Rick Nash. .... Nash's 45 shots on goal in the playoffs led the league going into Wednesday's games, but he had yet to score in the postseason. He led the Rangers with four shots Wednesday. ... Rangers G Henrik Lundqvist started his 77th consecutive playoff game.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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