One of the most impressive aspects of the Pittsburgh Penguins' hot streak over the last month and a half is that three goaltenders have played a role in it.
First Marc-Andre Fleury got hurt, then standout rookie Matt Murray's injury put Jeff Zatkoff in net for the first two games of this series, seemingly giving the edge to the New York Rangers. But Murray picked up right where he left off in Game 3, and now the Penguins are in position to take a 3-1 lead with another victory Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
Pittsburgh has won 16 of 19 since March 11 with Fleury posting a 1.98 goals-against average through nine games in that stretch before suffering a concussion. Murray stepped in and won his first six starts before leaving the regular-season finale with a head injury.
Zatkoff made 35 saves in a 4-2 win in Game 1 against the Rangers but struggled somewhat in a 4-2 loss in Game 2. Murray returned to make 16 saves in Tuesday's 3-1 victory.
Fleury practiced Monday before being ruled out, and his status going forward is questionable.
''The nerves were definitely going at the start of the game. That's understandable,'' Murray said. ''It was my first playoff game, at MSG no less. I was able to control it and that was all I could ask for.''
He got help offensively as the Penguins outshot the Rangers 31-17. Sidney Crosby tied it on the power play in the second period before Matt Cullen put the Penguins ahead early in the third. Kris Letang added an empty netter.
Pittsburgh has won all three meetings this season at Madison Square Garden and has taken nine of its last 10 on the road.
''Our mindset is playing the right way, doing the things that have got us here. The past is the past," Crosby said. "Right now we want to make sure we are better every game. I think we took a good step here (Tuesday).''
The Rangers hoped the return of captain Ryan McDonagh would help, but they couldn't slow the Penguins' attack enough. McDonagh didn't show any signs of rust, playing a team-high 22:48 after missing the previous five with a hand injury.
Rick Nash scored short-handed in the second period after New York had a goal nullified in the first when video review showed the Rangers had gone offside on Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan's challenge.
"We didn't make it tough on them in their own zone as much," McDonagh said. "It's a little disappointing we can't find a way to get a goal (in the third period) and they get a road win and are up in the series. We have to respond here."
The Rangers have gone 2-3-1 in their last six at home, a stretch that started when Pittsburgh beat them in overtime March 27. They've also scored three goals while dropping their last four playoff games at MSG.
New York didn't give much help to Henrik Lundqvist, who made 28 saves after stopping 29 shots in Game 2. He's helped knock the Penguins out of the last two postseasons and has a 1.52 GAA in his last 11 playoff games against Pittsburgh, including when he left early in Game 1 because of an eye injury.
The Rangers will need plenty more than another solid performance from Lundqvist, though, if they want to head back to Pittsburgh with the series tied.
"Everyone in here wishes the game were (Wednesday) and we can get back out there and play," defenseman Keith Yandle said. "We are real confident. We know this group. We know we can play a better game."