NEW YORK – The Pittsburgh Penguins routed the New York Rangers 5–0 at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night to take a commanding 3–1 lead in their first round series.
The Pens came out firing, with Eric Fehr’s goal giving them the lead just 69 seconds into the game and heralding a regrettable evening by Rangers bulwark Henrik Lundqvist.
The Penguins were relentless, taking a 3–0 lead in the first period. Meanwhile, the Rangers were simply unable to find any answers during the rest of the game and eventually pulled Lundqvist for backup Antti Raanta during the second period.
Midway through the third, the stands were half empty and the mood was bleak. The Rangers certainly have a difficult task ahead as they now need to win three straight games to avoid elimination. New York has come back from the postseason abyss in notable ways. In the 2014, the Rangers were down 3–1 to Pittsburgh in the conference semifinals before rallying to win the series and eventually reach the Stanley Cup Final. And the Blueshirts are the only team to come back from such a deficit two years in a row, having also done it last spring against Washington.
Will a third time be the charm?
The teams will head back to the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh for Game 5 on Saturday.
Here are three thoughts from Game 4:
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Malkin, Penguins' power play dominate
The Penguins are taking no prisoners with the man advantage. Evgeni Malkin scored twice, once in the first period and again in the second. He also contributed two assists. Malkin, who prior to the playoffs last played on March 11, continues to torment New York, bringing his total tally in this series to two goals and four assists.
At times, Pittsburgh's power play looked like it was way too much for the Rangers to handle. The Penguins efficiently and quickly passed the puck in their offensive zone and scored three times with the Rangers down a man. They now have seven power play goals in this series.
Playoff newbies make their mark
The Penguins have a strong veteran presence—Sidney Crosby and Malkin each played in their 104th career playoff game tonight. But rookies Matt Murray and Conor Sheary were key to helping Pittsburgh take control of this series.
Netminder Murray, who won Game 3 as Marc-André Fleury continues to deal with concussion issues, admitted to being nervous ahead of that first career playoff win on Tuesday. On Thursday, he looked confident and poised. He made 31 saves, recording his first playoff shutout and second postseason win.
Meanwhile, Sheary’s goal in the first period was one to remember, and although Pittsburgh would go on to light the lamp three more times, the impressive play and finish by the youngster put a dagger in the Rangers’ disappointing first period. With about four minutes left, Sheary blocked a pass by Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein and rushed the puck down the ice before placing a deadly snipe past Lundqvist.
Not for the Rangers’ lack of trying
Turnovers and sloppiness surely did the Rangers in, but they had their chances. The score was lopsided after the first period, but the shots were fairly even at 13–11 in favor of Pittsburgh, and the final totals were 32–31, advantage Pittsburgh. And Murray had to make a great save in the first period while stopping a wrister by Eric Staal that would have evened the score.
Later the Rangers had a two-on-one opportunity, but Dominic Moore could not convert on the play.
Interestingly, the Rangers have now lost five straight playoff games at MSG, including three shutouts. They're surely going to have to reverse that trend if they survive Game 5 in Pittsburgh. As of now, it looks like an early tee time is looming for the Blueshirts.