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Penguins blank Rangers again, grab series lead

by Mike G. Morreale

NEW YORK -- Sidney Crosby scored his first goal of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and Marc-Andre Fleury made 35 saves to post his second straight shutout and lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 2-0 victory against the New York Rangers in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series at Madison Square Garden on Monday.

New York, which was playing its sixth postseason game in nine days, once again failed miserably on the power play, going 0-for-5. The Rangers are 0-for-13 with the man advantage in three games against the Penguins and have not scored in 34 straight chances.

Fleury, who earned his eighth career playoff shutout, has stopped 57 straight shots since allowing a goal to Derick Brassard in a 3-2 overtime loss in Game 1 last Friday. He became the first Pittsburgh goalie to post back-to-back playoff shutouts, making 16 saves in the second period and nine in the third.

"I don't think there was any question that [Fleury] was our best player on the ice," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "He was strong all throughout the game and certainly on the penalty kill. Our penalty kill shut them out, and that was mostly because of Marc-Andre."

Fleury also received a bit of luck. Two New York shots rang off the post, and another hit the crossbar. In fact, when Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello hit the crossbar midway through the second period, Fleury took off his glove and began rubbing the iron.

"I was glad," Fleury said. "I was thanking [the crossbar]; he was a good friend."

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist made 13 saves in the loss.

New York will try to even the series Wednesday in Game 4 at the Garden (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS). The last time the Rangers were shut out in back-to-back playoff games was Games 4 and 5 of the 1937 Stanley Cup Final against the Detroit Red Wings. Detroit won that best-of-5 series 3-2.

The Rangers, who did generate 10 shots on their five power plays, haven't scored a goal with the man advantage since Game 2 of their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Philadelphia Flyers; they are 3-for-42 in the playoffs.

It has gotten to the point where the Rangers' struggles on the power play have actually provided the opposition just the momentum it needs to capitalize in the offensive zone.

"It's all about momentum and definitely to get those kills and a couple of goals in the second, we seemed to get a boost off of that," Crosby said. "But to kill as many penalties as we did, it took a lot of flow from the game. It wasn't easy on our side to create momentum, so hopefully we can stay out of the box and do a better job with that."

Crosby received his chance after his team denied the Rangers on their third power play of the game. A double minor for high sticking assessed to James Neal at 18:15 of the first that carried over into the second saw the Rangers generate five shots, but they could not beat Fleury.

Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo spotted Crosby flying down his left wing.

"I heard him yell, 'Hey. Hey. Hey,'" Bortuzzo said. "When you hear that, you get him the puck. But I don't think it took that goal for him to get confidence back. He's a world-class player and plays with a lot of confidence and energy every game. It's not about points and goals; he was phenomenal our last game. Maybe the goal will satisfy the media people, but in that room we believe what he's doing out there."

Bortuzzo's pass from the Penguins zone connected with Crosby in stride at the Rangers blue line, and the Pittsburgh captain skated into the left circle and ripped a shot that beat Lundqvist through the five-hole 19 seconds after Neal had exited the penalty box.

"Obviously, it was a big lift for Sid," Bylsma said. "At that point in the game, it was about killing off the four-minute penalty, and that next shift we come out and get that goal. It was a huge lift for our team, and no better than to get it from Sidney."

The goal was Crosby's first in 14 playoff games dating back to May 2013, his first in 10 games at MSG and his first against Lundqvist since firing a shot home in the second period of a 3-0 triumph as a member of Canada against Sweden at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

The Penguins extended the lead to 2-0 in the second when Jussi Jokinen burst out the box after serving a penalty for holding the stick, picked off an errant pass to the left point by Zuccarello and broke in alone on Lundqvist before scoring his fifth goal of the playoffs at 15:20.

Jokinen, who has provided Pittsburgh with the secondary scoring needed in the playoffs, extended his point streak to seven games with the goal; he has four goals and three assists over that stretch.

"Jokinen is one of those guys that if you're looking for a big goal or a game-winning goal or overtime goal, you would pick him," Bylsma said. "He has a knack for scoring big goals. It was a big dagger to get that second goal."

Each coach was in the mood for a little gamesmanship before the opening faceoff and in the first period. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault replaced forwards Daniel Carcillo and Derek Dorsett with J.T. Miller and Jesper Fast, and defenseman Raphael Diaz suited up in place of John Moore. Despite the loss, Vigneault claimed he liked what he saw from his group.

"Our whole team, I thought, played a strong game," Vigneault said. "We didn't give them much as far as opportunities. We had some real good looks; we just couldn't score. I think both teams are battling real hard, but I liked the way we played."

The Rangers' changes were made to generate more speed and aggression in the Penguins zone. For the most part the plan worked; New York held a 10-7 shot advantage at the first intermission.

Fleury, who was fresh off a 22-save shutout in Game 2 on Sunday, stopped all 10 shots. Lundqvist, who made 32 of 34 saves Sunday, was equally sharp.

"I think we do a lot of good things out there, but it has not been enough to win," Lundqvist said. "We need to dig deep here to just find a way to win. There are a couple things we can do better, but there are also a lot of good things out there.

"It's hard to just name one thing as to why we lost this game."

Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said that his team's penalty kill, including Fleury, was the difference. The Penguins have allowed seven power-play goals on 40 chances in the postseason. The Penguins also blocked 17 shots, including a team-high three blocks by defenseman Paul Martin.

"I thought the first two periods we did a great job on the penalty kill, and the shot-blocking was great," Letang said.

Martin gave credit to Fleury for leading Pittsburgh to the win with another outstanding performance.

"That's the way he plays," Martin said. "He has that confidence playing that way and wants to stop the pucks. He's been great for us and building off how he finished in the regular season, but we just can't take so many penalties."


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