NEW YORK (AP) — Sidney Crosby woke up, and so did the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Crosby scored twice and the Penguins evened their first-round playoff series with the New York Rangers with a 4-3 win Saturday night.
The Rangers won Game 1 by making Crosby virtually invisible and keeping Evgeni Malkin out of the danger zone. On Saturday, both of them and the Penguins as a whole showed more jump, possessing the puck and keeping New York off-balance. Forcing turnovers in the decisive second period, shutting down the Rangers’ power play and generally controlling the pace, the Penguins got even.
“You play well, that’s all you want,” the Penguins’ star center said. “We wanted to make sure we went home with one.”
Crosby, naturally, was at the center of the turnaround. He broke a 1-1 tie by knocking in a rebound of Patric Hornqvist’s shot in the second period. Then Crosby made a diving deflection past Henrik Lundqvist of a pass from Chris Kunitz on the right wing boards following a Rangers giveaway in their zone.
At that point, Crosby had four shots on goal in the series, with two going in.
“There’s always pressure to score,” said Crosby, who had 28 goals and 84 points this season
Game 3 is Monday night in Pittsburgh. The Rangers had the league’s best road record this season while also winning the Presidents’ Cup for top overall record.
“It’s important in the playoffs to make sure you can play in a home building and in a road building,” Derek Stepan said. “We have to make sure we get ourselves refocused and get ourselves ready for Game 3.”
The Rangers have not won a home Game 2 since beating Vancouver in the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals.
Marc-Andre Fleury finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, while Lundqvist had 18.
The resilient Rangers got back in it early in the third period on, of all things, their previously sputtering power play. Derick Brassard knocked in a rebound from short range after strong pressure with Blake Comeau penalized early in the third.
Derek Stepan hit the goal post on the first shot of another power play less than three minutes later. And while killing a penalty, Martin St. Louis and Carl Hagelin both couldn’t get to a loose puck behind Fleury in the crease.
On that same power play, Kunitz made it 4-2, sweeping in the rebound of Brandon Sutter’s short shot.
“I thought our second power-play unit was effective for us when it was out there,” Penguins coach Mike Johnston said.
Rick Nash scored with 5.1 seconds to go for New York.
The Rangers opened the scoring in the first period. Stepan was robbed by Fleury from the slot, but on New York’s next rush, Ryan McDonagh fed J.T. Miller on left wing, and his perfect pass to nearly the same spot in the slot hit Stepan in stride. He beat Fleury to the far post this time — one of only three Rangers shots in the period.
While the Rangers’ power play struggled, Sutter nearly tied it midway in the second with a short-handed wrist shot that clanged off the goal post. Then he did tie it with a rebound off a deflection on a Pittsburgh power play.
Special teams were critical, of course, with Pittsburgh going 2 for 4 on power plays, New York 1 for 7.
“You have to save you energy to kill penalties off,” Crosby said when asked if the Penguins were getting frustrated by so many calls against them. “It’s not worth wasting your energy.”
Nash recognized the Rangers’ urgent need to pick up the power-play production.
“I think we were overpassing a bit tonight,” he said. “It didn’t seem like we were getting enough looks, enough shots there in the shot lanes, and we weren’t working to get through the shot lanes and get the shots on net.”
NOTES: The game was more than seven minutes old before either team managed a shot on goal, Mats Zuccarello’s wrist shot into Fleury’s midsection. Almost two minutes later, Malkin got the Penguins’ first shot on goal. … The teams were tied 1-1 after two games in their 2014 second-round playoff series. Pittsburgh won the next two, then New York took the final three on its way to the Stanley Cup Finals.
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