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Rangers pressure puts Penguins on heels

Forecheck helps New York defeat Pittsburgh in Game 2 to square series

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

PITTSBURGH -- If New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault carried a checklist of things he needs them to do to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins, almost every box would be filled after Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round on Saturday.

Goalie Henrik Lundqvist dominated. The top-six forwards produced; Penguins center Sidney Crosby did not. New York's defensemen made smart decisions at the offensive blue line and limited mistakes in general. The forechecking forwards were physical and effective in getting the puck behind Pittsburgh's defense and going to work to force turnovers. The puck went in the net.

Yes, the Rangers were burned twice by the Penguins power play, but it wasn't enough to stop them from getting a 4-2, series-tying win at Consol Energy Center. Game 3 is at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; USA, ROOT, MSG, SN. TVA Sports).

"We did a lot of the things that we wanted to," Rangers center Derek Stepan said. "I said it before we started the series, [Pittsburgh] is arguably the best team in the NHL right now. We have to play games that are close to mistake-free."

They did Saturday. The only question now is, can they do it three more times? The Rangers may not be able to play any better against the Penguins than they did in Game 2, but at least now they know they won't have to in order to win the series.

Video: NYR@PIT, Gm2: Rangers net three in 2nd, take control

Lundqvist, coming back from a right eye injury, made 28 saves. Derick Brassard had a goal and two assists. J.T. Miller had three assists. Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider and Keith Yandle scored. New York had a 57-25 advantage in hits, typically a subjective stat but one that yields a definite conclusion when a team wins it by a landslide.

"It was a gutsy effort," Rangers forward Eric Staal said. "I thought we competed right from the drop of the puck. We had everybody involved, a couple big plays for some goals that really turned the momentum for us. We need to feel good, but make sure we're coming with the same compete in Game 3."

Vigneault talked before the series about how fast the Penguins are in transition. After seeing it in action in Game 1, he said with certainty that the Rangers got the message. He was right.

Although Pittsburgh dictated a lot of the play with its transition game in the first period, New York settled down and took over in the second, after Lundqvist made a right-pad save on Chris Kunitz at 4:34 that kept it 1-0, Penguins.

The attack began when the Rangers started to pressure, to play on their toes. They outshot the Penguins 4-0 and had a 9-0 edge in shot attempts during a 2:50 stretch leading to Pittsburgh defenseman Brian Dumoulin's penalty for hooking Miller at 8:47.

The Penguins killed it, but the Rangers stayed physical when it returned to 5-on-5. Viktor Stalberg hit Kris Letang. Kevin Klein hit Patric Hornqvist. Tanner Glass hit Crosby and Ian Cole on the same shift, four seconds apart.

Video: NYR@PIT, Gm2: Lundqvist gets a glove on Rust's shot

Eventually, the Rangers got an offensive-zone faceoff. Brassard won it and Yandle scored six seconds later, after Miller got the puck to the net so Yandle could shoot it from the slot after coming down from the left point.

"Pucks and bodies to the net," Miller said.

Brassard scored 18 seconds later on a breakaway created by a long pass from Miller that got behind Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta.

"Lucky bounce," Vigneault said. "You need a few of those."

Zuccarello made it 3-1 at 16:52, when the Rangers forced Cole to cough up the puck in the defensive zone with an aggressive forecheck.

Kreider scored 39 seconds into the third period after he, Zuccarello and Brassard forechecked hard enough to cause another Penguins defensive-zone turnover, this one off the stick of defenseman Trevor Daley.

"We played a more complete game, played great defense to offense hockey and hounded their [defense]," Miller said. "I think the whole team sees it, feeds off of it, and you can definitely tell it paid off."

Video: NYR@PIT, Gm2 : Lundqvist makes kick save on Kunitz

It wasn't that the Rangers hit the Penguins hard, they just hit them a lot; 25 were on Pittsburgh defensemen.

"It's hard to defend if you're going back for pucks all night," Miller said, "and if you're hitting them every time, it just makes them not want to go back as much."

And when the Rangers needed Lundqvist, he was there, seeing everything, just as they and he hoped. His save on Bryan Rust's breakaway at 15:34 of the second period preserved a 2-1 lead. Zuccarello scored 78 seconds later.

Lundqvist found out his eye was fine after visiting with a specialist Thursday. He practiced Friday and was in his typical top form Saturday.

"Right after I left the doctor's office, I was starting to prepare for this game," Lundqvist said.

The Rangers are now preparing for Game 3 at home. The boxes they need to check off are the same, just empty again. Fill 'em up and they'll have a great chance to take control of this series.

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