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Rangers extend series with dominant Game 5 win

by Adam Kimelman

PITTSBURGH -- Derick Brassard seems to save his best for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Brassard had two goals and an assist, and the New York Rangers scored four times in the first two periods of a 5-1 win against the Penguins in Game 5 on Friday that extended the Eastern Conference Second Round series.

Pittsburgh leads the best-of-7 series 3-2, with Game 6 on Sunday at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS). Game 7, if necessary, will be at Consol Energy Center on Tuesday.

Brassard and linemate Mats Zuccarello have feasted on the Penguins this season. In nine regular-season and playoff games against Pittsburgh, Brassard has five goals and three assists; Zuccarello, who set up three of New York's first four goals, has three goals and seven assists.

Each of Brassard's goals in the series has been a game-winner; he scored the overtime goal in Game 1.

"I don't have an answer for you," Brassard said when asked why he's had so much success against the Penguins. "We're just playing. We don't put any pressure on ourselves. I think it helps that we're great friends off the ice. There's no pressure when we play together. Everything's positive. We needed to step up [in Game 5]. I don't think the last two games ... we were OK. We didn't play bad but we were nothing special. We just tried to play hard [Friday]. We had some lucky bounces and we made some plays."

The rest of the Rangers made some plays too; New York scored five times after managing a total of five goals in the first four games of the series. Chris Kreider and Ryan McDonagh each had a power-play goal, and defenseman Kevin Klein scored into an empty net.

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist made 31 saves to improve to 8-2 in his past 10 Stanley Cup Playoff games when facing elimination or able to close a series.

Rangers forward Martin St. Louis was in the lineup one day after the death of his mother, France. St. Louis spent time at home in Montreal before returning to the team Friday.

Evgeni Malkin scored for the Penguins, and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made 30 saves.

The Rangers' managed 15 shots in Game 4, a 4-2 loss at Madison Square Garden.

"We knew that our execution need to be much better than it was the last game, our puck management, and for the most part it was," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "We were able to have a better puck-possession night. We created a couple good looks and we were able to beat their goaltender, who had been real strong in this series."

The Rangers led 2-0 after one period, and their 17 shots in the first 20 minutes was more than they managed in all of Game 4.

"I think we were averaging two goals per game in the playoffs and that's not good enough," Brassard said. "Our goalie can't stop everything every night. A night like [Game 5] where we score more than two, that's going to give confidence to our forwards."

Kreider supplied some of that confidence early, scoring a power-play goal 9:36 into the game. After diving to keep a play alive in the New York zone, he got the rebound of a Ryan McDonagh point shot along the goal line to the left of the net and beat Fleury inside the near post.

It was the Rangers' first power-play goal since Game 2 of the first round against the Philadelphia Flyers, snapping an 0-for-36 drought that tied the 2007 Anaheim Ducks for the longest in NHL playoff history.

"I think we've been doing some things well on the power play," Kreider said. "It's hard when you see that looming statistic. But it's nice when you finally get one. ... I think it was huge. I think it was a really important goal."

The Rangers made it 2-0 on Brassard's goal at 15:23. It came after Penguins defenseman Kris Letang iced the puck, causing his team to go with tired skaters on a faceoff on the left side of their zone. The Rangers took advantage when defenseman Paul Martin fumbled the puck away to Benoit Pouliot. The loose puck bounced to Zuccarello in the slot, where he fired a shot that Fleury stopped, but Brassard drove to the net to backhand the rebound past Fleury.

Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma had warned his team to expect a strong start from the Rangers, but the Penguins were unable to keep up with the pace.

"We definitely expected their best, and their very best off the hop," Bylsma said. "They came really hard, really aggressive down the walls. We turned over a few pucks as a result, led to their offensive-zone time. In addition to that we had some unforced errors. We shot a puck over the glass without a lot of pressure. We had an unforced icing that led to a goal. We had a bad change that led to a power play and another goal. In addition to them playing their hardest and their best, we had some unforced errors that gave them their chances on the power play."

Malkin scored a dazzling goal to get the Penguins within one early in the second. He split Marc Staal and defense partner Anton Stralman, lost the puck, got it back along the goal line, spun and fired a shot past Lundqvist.

But the Rangers stole back the momentum when Brassard and McDonagh scored 50 seconds apart midway through the second to make it 4-1.

The Penguins had chances to get back in the game, including a 5-on-3 power play for 1:23 in the final stages of the second period during which they couldn't manage a shot. The Penguins finished the game 0-for-4 with the man advantage and are 1-for-15 in the series.

"The 5-on-3 was a huge opportunity for us," Bylsma said. "We had an empty net that we hit but it hit one of our players. We had a couple plays. I don't think we've attacked and shot enough on our power play. The 5-on-3 was ... we needed to get one there and maybe a second one before the end of the second period. We had some looks and chances, missed the net with a shot, hit our own guy with a shot and didn't capitalize."

The Penguins had another power play in the third period and generated two shots during a 4-on-3 advantage that became a 5-on-3 when Fleury was pulled with 5:53 to go.

Klein closed the scoring into an empty net with 2:29 remaining.

"We've got another chance to continue," Vigneault said. "It's going to be on Mother's Day, which is obviously going to be real special for our group. We're going to be ready."

Bylsma had warned his team before the game that they needed to match the Rangers' desperation in order to close the series. They weren't able to do it and now will have to make an unwanted trip to New York for Game 6.

"You have to turn the page real quick," Bylsma said. "We're getting on a plane [Saturday] and we have to go to the Garden for Game 6. It's a tough building and a team that's playing desperate right now. They played desperate in Game 5 and had a big victory. Now we're forced to go back there and play better. We have to play with that same desperation [as the Rangers] and we have to do it back there."


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