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Crosby helps Penguins even series with Rangers

by Dan Rosen /

NEW YORK -- The Pittsburgh Penguins talked confidently after Game 1 about how they felt they could skate with, score against, and defeat the New York Rangers.

It wasn't just lip service.

Sidney Crosby broke out of his scoring slump in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with two goals, the Penguins scored twice on the power play, and Pittsburgh survived being shorthanded seven times in a 4-3 win against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Saturday in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round.

"It's nice to get rewarded," Crosby said. "Sometimes in the playoffs you play well and you don't always get the result you want. I thought we continued from the end of last game (a 2-1 loss). I thought we were more aggressive at the end of last game and improved that [Saturday]."

The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1. Game 3 is Monday at Consol Energy Center (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA, MSG, ROOT).

"[The Rangers] are obviously a team that has won the Presidents' Trophy, they're a great team, but you've seen the parity across this League this year, the past couple years, and any team can beat any team on any given night," Penguins defenseman Ian Cole said. "Obviously it's a lot harder to do it four times in a seven-game series, but we have a very good team led by Sidney Crosby and stopped on the back end by Marc-Andre Fleury, so we're confident we can play with anybody."

Crosby had one goal in his previous 19 playoff games. He scored two in a span of 4:39 late in the second period to give the Penguins a 3-1 lead.

Chris Kunitz and Brandon Sutter scored power-play goals for Pittsburgh. Kunitz had an assist on Crosby's second goal and Sutter's goal; Sutter had an assist on Kunitz's goal.

The Penguins were 6-for-7 on the penalty kill and are 10-for-12 in the first two games of the series, and their power play has matched the Rangers by going 2-for-5. Fleury made 23 saves, including 12 against the Rangers' power play.

Derek Stepan, Derick Brassard and Rick Nash scored for the Rangers. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist made 18 saves. Nash's goal came with 5.1 seconds remaining in the third period.

The Rangers scored a power-play goal but lost Game 2 because they couldn't capitalize more often with the man-advantage.

"We have to look at ourselves first and we have to get the job done [on the power play]," Nash said. "If we aren't getting the job done [at even strength] we have to get a huge momentum off the power play and the individuals that are on that [power play] have to be a lot better."

The Penguins' penalty problems caught up with them early in the third period when Brassard scored a power-play goal off a rebound of Mats Zuccarello's shot to make it 3-2 at 3:16.

The Rangers changed the look on that power play to open more shooting lanes and it worked. They had seven shots on goal and 10 total shot attempts.

New York had another power play, its seventh, at 5:46, when Sutter went off for hooking defenseman Keith Yandle. Stepan hit the post, but the Penguins preserved the one-goal lead.

"We [have to] be a little bit smarter for sure, especially stick penalties, myself included," Sutter said. "We have to get those stick penalties out."

Kunitz scored his power-play goal, Pittsburgh's second of the game, less than two minutes after Sutter came out of the box. It wound up being the game-winner because of Nash's late goal.

"Special teams are such a big key in the playoffs and I can't say enough good things about the penalty kill in front of me, blocking shots and helping me around the net," Fleury said. "The PP came up big with two goals. That's the difference between winning and losing."

The Penguins carried a 3-1 lead into the third period thanks to three goals in the final 10 minutes of the second, including the two from Crosby.

Crosby gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead at 14:07, when he gained inside position on Ryan McDonagh and scored on a rebound. Crosby scored again at 18:46 when he got in ahead of Rangers left wing J.T. Miller and reached his stick out to redirect Kunitz's crossing pass.

Crosby last scored a playoff goal in Game 3 of the second round against the Rangers last May 5; that ended a 13-game drought.

"The best players in the NHL are going to get some looks and he got some looks [Saturday]," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said.

Stepan gave New York the lead at 17:05 of the first period, but Pittsburgh tied it 1-1 on Sutter's power-play goal at 10:01 of the second.

Sutter hit the post with a shot on a shorthanded breakaway at 6:48. Later, after forward Steve Downie inadvertently blocked Kunitz's shot, the puck popped into the air and bounced on the ice right in front of Sutter.

"It just popped up and I managed to whack it in," Sutter said. "Hopefully it's a sign of things to come."

The Penguins were confident they could even the series before it shifted to Pittsburgh. They were right, even if they lived on the edge again.

"Absolutely too many penalties," Cole said. "I mean, I took two of them. Without a doubt too many penalties, but a heck of a job getting it done."


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