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Pens Oust Rangers, Await Flyers

by Joe Sager / Pittsburgh Penguins

One Atlantic Division foe down, another to go.

With Sunday’s 3-2 overtime win in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Penguins ended the Rangers’ season. Next up for Pittsburgh: cross-state rival Philadelphia. 

“If you want a rivalry, there’s one right there. I am sure everyone’s well aware of it,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “As players, we know the playoffs are always intense, but it throws a little spice into it when it’s Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. It doesn’t get any easier.”

Penguins winger Ryan Malone is looking forward to the Eastern Conference Finals matchup against the Flyers. 

“It’s going to be what hockey is all about,” he said. “I think it’s going to be great for the game, great for the fans and fun for us, too.”

The rivalry has been an intense one and is not limited to the NHL ranks. The two organizations’ AHL teams are currently locked in an East Division Finals series and have a long history of good battles. 

“It should be pretty fun and exciting. It’s always been a big rivalry, so it should be fun,” goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. “They’ve been our biggest rivals for some time. Even in the minors at the AHL, it’s a big rivalry.”

The Penguins advanced to meet the Flyers with an NHL-best 8-1 postseason record. Pittsburgh won its first seven games before falling in New York, 3-0, on Thursday.

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist congratulates Sidney Crosby on Sunday.

“It was tough. Even when we had the 3-0 lead, every game could have really gone either way. We battled hard,” Crosby said. “We didn’t play great in Game 4 and came back here and had a solid effort and deserved to win.”

The Penguins built a 2-0 lead in Game 5 before the Rangers rallied to knot the game early in the third and forced overtime. Marian Hossa gave Pittsburgh the win with a goal 7:10 into OT.   

“It’s pretty good to win in five games. The Rangers have a great team, so for us to be able to beat them early, that’s good for us,” Fleury said.  “We can get a little rest before the next series.”

Penguins coach Michel Therrien was proud of his troops for staving off the Rangers’ rally and finding a way to beat goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who was sharp once again for New York.

“We had everything under control. There was one breakdown and they scored and that put us on our heels a little. You gain experience with ups and downs. I think the guys will learn a lot from this game, but they found a way to win. The most-important thing for me was that we deserved to win. We deserved to win that game and that series by the way we competed,” he said. “We were the ones who were controlling the game. In that second period, we really stepped up our game. If it was not for Lundqvist…he was phenomenal again; he was phenomenal in Game 4 in New York, too. We had a lot of quality scoring chances to win the game. This is a tough team to play against. They are committed defensively and well-coached. They have experience and quality players. But, that young group found a way to win. I didn’t feel any tension before we got to the overtime. I told the players to enjoy this. That’s what playoff hockey is all about. It’s fun. Let’s have fun and get to the overtime and we certainly did.”

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