PITTSBURGH (AP) – Henrik Lundqvist stopped 23 shots and the New York Rangers regained control of their first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins with a 2-1 win in Game 3 on Tuesday night.
Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider scored for New York, which dominated for two periods then held on late to take a 2-1 series lead.
Game 4 is Wednesday in Pittsburgh.
Patric Hornqvist scored his third career playoff goal for the Penguins, but Pittsburgh couldn’t overcome another slow start. Marc-Andre Fleury made 24 saves, but the Penguins couldn’t back up their strong play in Game 2.
The Rangers led the NHL in road wins during the regular season and shut down Pittsburgh stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to reclaim home-ice advantage.
Pittsburgh’s performance on Saturday night seemed like a reminder of more promising springs.
Crosby scored twice to end a lengthy drought. And the Penguins looked – for the better part of three periods anyway – more like the powerhouse that has dominated the regular season in recent years, not the erratic, injury-riddled enigma it has been for most of the past five months.
The Penguins believed it was a revival, not a last hurrah. It didn’t look that way, however, as the Rangers spent 60 minutes showing why they were so effective away from Madison Square Garden this season.
New York choked off passing lanes, clamped down on Crosby and Malkin and never let Pittsburgh get anything resembling offensive flow.
The Rangers overwhelmed the Penguins in the opening minutes and Hagelin gave New York a 1-0 lead at 8:43 following a sloppy line change by the Penguins and a brilliant lead pass from Keith Yandle that split the Pittsburgh defense and let Hagelin break in alone on Fleury.
The slap shot from between the circles went between Fleury’s legs as the Rangers did their best to silence a surprisingly raucous crowd at Consol Energy Center.
Not that the Penguins did much to generate any sort of enthusiasm.
Pittsburgh needed 15 minutes to record its first shot, a harmless flip from behind the blue line by defenseman Ben Lovejoy.
It drew a sarcastic roar but also seemed to shake the Penguins to life. Crosby hit the post with a one-timer following a pretty backhanded drop pass by Hornqvist, one of the few highlights of a choppy and chippy 20 minutes that looked more like a pickup game at the local rink than high-level late-season hockey.
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It’s a style the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Rangers can adapt to easily, one the Penguins are still trying to master.
Given an opportunity to put all of the pressure on New York, instead the Penguins reverted to their uneven form that saw them limp to their ninth straight postseason berth.
Kreider doubled New York’s lead 11:07 into the second period when a Marc Staal shot from the point deflected off the end boards and right to Kreider on the doorstep of the net.
The goal came seconds after the Rangers appeared to get away with hooking Pittsburgh’s Maxim LaPierre while the fourth-line center was on the penalty kill.
There was no call and when the Rangers made it back to the Penguins’ zone, Kreider darted to the net and swatted the puck out of the air and by Fleury.
Hornqvist prevented Lundqvist from earning his 10th playoff shutout by pounding a rebound into the New York net with 6:48 remaining but the Penguins – who never won a game while trailing after two periods all season – couldn’t make it all the way back.
NOTES: The Rangers are 4-1 in their past five series that were tied after two games. … New York, which led the NHL in first-period goals during the season, has outscored Pittsburgh 4-0 in the opening period. … Pittsburgh’s scratches included F Beau Bennett, who sat in favor of Scott Wilson. Wilson was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL last week.
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