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Penguins seeking faster start vs. Rangers in Game 4

by Mike G. Morreale / NHL.com

RANGERS at PENGUINS

TV: NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports 2, MSG, ROOT

New York leads best-of-7 series 2-1

The Pittsburgh Penguins would certainly benefit from a strong start instead of the usual uphill battle against the New York Rangers in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference First Round series at Consol Energy Center on Wednesday.

The Rangers have scored the first goal in each of the opening three games of the best-of-7 series to take a 2-1 lead and have outshot the Penguins 23-13 in the first period.

"There's a fine line between setting up the perfect shot and just throwing shots on net," center Sidney Crosby said in audio provided by the Penguins. "It's not something where you flick a switch in the playoffs; it's something you work on all year in making that decision. In the playoffs, things are tighter and happen quicker so you have to make that decision much faster than you would the regular season."

History favors the Rangers; teams with a 2-1 lead in a best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series are 307-136 (69.3 percent). The Rangers are 10-2 in the past 12 series they've led 2-1, which dates to the 1994 Eastern Conference Final against the New Jersey Devils.

Crosby said he believes that a bounce here or there and the Penguins could be leading the series.

"It's a fine line in the playoffs and that's why it's important to make sure every night you're giving yourself a chance with your effort and with the level of competing," Crosby said. "When we get caught being a little tentative or thinking a little bit, we get on our heels. I like our mentality and mindset, and think that if we keep that and keep playing the same way the pucks will go in for us and we'll get some power plays too."

The Rangers defense pairing of Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh has been exceptional against the Penguins. Girardi has averaged 21:41 of ice time and leads them with 15 blocked shots in three games. McDonagh averages a Rangers-leading 25:35 and has eight hits.

Penguins center Evgeni Malkin has no points and four shots on goal through three games. He admitted Sunday he is playing injured. Penguins coach Mike Johnston did say Malkin "has been progressing every single game. He still has to direct more pucks to the net; he's a three-or-four-shot a game guy and he needs to do that, but I think he's on the verge of breaking through."

Penguins forward Beau Bennett, who missed Game 3 with an upper-body injury, returned to practice Tuesday. The Penguins are without defensemen Christian Ehrhoff (upper body), Kris Letang (concussion), Derrick Pouliot (upper body) and Olli Maatta (upper body). Letang and Ehrhoff did not practice Tuesday.

Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein, who has been out since sustaining a broken left arm after taking a slap shot to the forearm on March 11, was cleared to skate with his teammates Monday for the first time since the injury. Coach Alain Vigneault said Tuesday that as soon as Klein is ready he'll return to the lineup. Klein will provide an update after the morning skate Wednesday.

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