PITTSBURGH -- The New York Rangers built a two-goal lead after two periods by being opportunistic on offense and stifling on defense. It was just enough to withstand the inevitable push from the Pittsburgh Penguins in the third period Monday at Consol Energy Center.
The Rangers held the Penguins to 11 shots on goal through the first 40 minutes, then held on in the final 20 minutes for a 2-1 win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round series.
Left wings Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider provided the offense for the Rangers to give them a 2-0 lead after two periods. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves, including 12 in the third period.
New York has a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series. Game 4 is Wednesday at Consol Energy Center (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports 2, MSG, ROOT).
The Rangers have scored the first goal in all three games in the series. The Penguins have given up the first goal in eight of their past 10 home playoff games; they are 2-6 in those games.
"We did a good job [in the first two periods], and we would like to see that carry over into the third and keep playing that way, but we sat back a bit," Rangers center Derek Stepan said. "It's just kind of in the nature of the playoffs, teams just push real hard in the third. But we find a way to win a game."
The Penguins started to generate more shots in the third period largely because they pushed up and started being more aggressive while they were chasing a two-goal deficit.
Forward Patric Hornqvist scored from the slot at 13:12 after a 45-second shift in the offensive zone with linemates Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz and defensemen Rob Scuderi and Ian Cole.
The Penguins kept threatening, requiring Lundqvist to make some difficult saves, including one with his left skate on defenseman Ben Lovejoy, but they couldn't get another shot past him after Hornqvist's goal.
"Our desperation level was much higher in the third, and you saw the difference in our game and our play," Crosby said. "Sometimes it's hard to realize what you are doing in the first or second means as much as it does, but you have to find that desperation for the entire game."
Pittsburgh didn't get its first shot on goal until 15:10 of the first period, and even that was a slap shot from near the red line by Lovejoy. The Penguins had three shots on goal and 11 total shot attempts in the first, seven of which came in the final 4:50.
New York was stingy again in the second, holding Pittsburgh to eight shots on goal while generating 12. The Penguins had as many shots on goal as they had blocked shots (11) through 40 minutes. The Rangers had 19 shots after two periods.
"I thought we overpassed the puck early in the game, no question," Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. "We came in on the attack, we had lanes, and we took the pass back instead of the play ahead. That has to be a shot choice instant. You can't look, you can't wait, it's gotta be right to the net."
Johnston is correct, except those opportunities were few and far between because the Rangers didn't give the Penguins much of a chance to generate sustained possession time or even plays off the rush.
The Rangers felt after Game 2 that they needed better puck management; they had it early in Game 3, and it helped them build a 2-0 lead.
"I said it after Game 2, we put a lot of pucks on their tape and they knocked a lot of pucks down and were able to spend some time in our zone," New York defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "We did a good job having numbers back and staying closer [in Game 3]. I felt when you had the puck on our stick, you had a lot of options around you because guys were staying closer, not stretching out as much. We were able to control the puck a lot better."
The Rangers carried a 2-0 lead into the second intermission on goals by Hagelin in the first period and Kreider in the second.
If not for an old-school, double pad-stack save by Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury on Stepan at 17:44, Pittsburgh could have faced a three-goal deficit.
"I can't sit here and tell you that I expected [Fleury] to do what he did, but it was an unbelievable save," Stepan said. "I've watched him quite a bit, and he has so much athleticism and that save, I couldn't believe it. I actually thought I got it by him, and he was able to get a pad on it, so it was a great save by him."
Fleury made 24 saves.
Kreider gave the Rangers the 2-0 lead at 11:07 of the second, when he scored from the left post, knocking the puck in after defenseman Marc Staal's shot-pass from the point banged off the end boards and caromed to the left of the net.
Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle might have gotten away with hooking Penguins center Maxim Lapierre seconds before Kreider carried the puck into the zone to set up the play that led to his goal.
Hagelin gave New York a 1-0 lead with his breakaway goal at 8:43 of the first period. He was sprung by defenseman Keith Yandle, who noticed the Penguins were in the middle of a line change when he quickly passed the puck up to a streaking Hagelin.
"Obviously a perfect pass by [Yandle] without much room to make that play," Hagelin said. "That was the only spot he could put the puck."
Pittsburgh was inches from tying the game less than eight minutes later, when Crosby's shot from the right circle hit the far post.
That was the Penguins' best chance until they started to push in the third period, when time just ran out on their comeback attempt.
"It was a weird game for me," Lundqvist said. "I just had to be in control and wait for their push. They started to come a little harder in the second, and in the third they really took it up. It was tough for us to get out, so they kept coming, and I had to make some big plays at the end there to pull this one away. It was a big win for us."