By IRA PODELL
AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) Martin St. Louis and Carl Hagelin scored 2:51 apart in the first period, and Henrik Lundqvist made 36 saves and the New York Rangers avoided elimination again with a 3-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday night.
The matchup between the Metropolitan Division rivals will be decided in Game 7 at Pittsburgh on Tuesday night. The Penguins, who led the series 3-1, failed in their first attempt to advance to the Eastern Conference finals with a 5-1 home loss on Friday.
Derick Brassard pushed the Rangers’ lead to 3-1 in the second period. Brandon Sutter scored the lone goal for the Penguins, who got 26 saves from Marc-Andre Fleury.
This was a far cry from New York’s disheartening 4-2 home loss in Game 4.
The Rangers are 9-2 in their past 11 games when facing elimination, dating to Game 6 of the first round in 2012 at Ottawa. New York has never won a series it trailed 3-1.
New York scored the all-important first goal, St. Louis’ third of the playoffs that had Madison Square Garden rocking just 3:34 in. New York had just withstood an extended period of time in its own end when Pittsburgh’s crisp passing and forechecking kept the Rangers under pressure.
They got the puck up ice, and defenseman Anton Stralman ripped a hard drive from the high slot that caromed off Fleury. Derek Stepan swiped at the puck in traffic and knocked it off St. Louis’ right leg and into the net.
The team that scored first has won all six games.
St. Louis capped off an emotional Mother’s Day with his father and sister in attendance, just three days after his mother died suddenly. His return to the team Friday night, without missing a game, provided a lift to his teammates as they kept their season alive.
St. Louis heard cheers of “Mar-ty, Mar-ty” during his first shift that grew louder after his goal.
St. Louis was the first star of the game. He patted his heart when he came out to an ovation from the crowd.
Buoyed by another early lead, the Rangers pressed for more, and got it on Hagelin’s unassisted goal at 6:25. Hagelin’s initial shot attempt from the left-wing boards was blocked by Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi. But Hagelin got to the loose puck in the center of the left circle and sent a hard backhand sailing past Fleury for his fourth of the postseason.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma then burned his lone timeout to try to calm his team that was being outshot 7-2.
Pittsburgh reversed that trend, cut its deficit in half, and trailed by only one goal at the end of the first period.
The Penguins started to gain momentum after they killed a roughing penalty against Jussi Jokinen and then received their first power play after Chris Kreider knocked down Jokinen at the edge of the crease with 8:40 left in the period.
New York had built its shots edge to 12-3, but then helped the Penguins make the score 2-1. Sutter flung the puck toward the net, and it appeared to hit Rangers defenseman John Moore and then bounce in off the foot of defenseman Kevin Klein near the left post with 3:04 left. Lundqvist was clearly agitated by the late goal by Pittsburgh, which led 15-14 in shots in the first period.
The teams both had chances in the middle period, and neither could connect on a pair of power plays.
Pittsburgh twice challenged Lundqvist with short-handed breakaways, and the Rangers had a goal waved off at 5:55 when Kreider was called for goalie interference after he was shoved from behind into Fleury by Kris Letang.
The Rangers made it 3-1, however, with 4:30 remaining in the period – just 25 seconds after Mats Zuccarello finished serving a tripping penalty.
Fleury tried to scoop a loose puck into his glove near the right post, but Brassard was able to get his skate on it and kick it into the air and behind the goalie. Brassard lunged with his stick, knocked it down and put it into the net for his third goal in two games and fourth in the series.
Benoit Pouliot earned an assist, giving the line of Pouliot, Brassard, and Zuccarello 12 goals and 15 assists in 10 games – regular season and playoffs – against Pittsburgh.
NOTES: Brassard’s line combined for seven points in Game 5. … The Penguins dropped to 9-3 at the Garden in the playoffs and 15-15 overall in Game 6s. … Lundqvist made his 79th consecutive playoff start, tying Fleury for third place on the NHL list among goalies with one team. Fleury’s run ended last year. New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur is first with 194, a streak that began in 1994 and is still current. Patrick Roy is in second place with 133.
Updated May 11, 2014
w4 © 2014 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.