Rangers stay alive while Wild square series
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The New York Rangers stayed alive in the NHL playoffs with a 5-1 win at Pittsburgh on Friday, cutting the Penguins’ series lead to 3-2 thanks chiefly to two goals from Derick Brassard.
Also Friday, Minnesota won 4-2 at home against defending champion Chicago to square their second-round series at 2-2.
Pittsburgh fans had arrived preparing to celebrate a place in the last four of the playoffs, but New York put up a defiant performance.
The Rangers had not scored on a man-advantage power-play in their past 36 attempts but Chris Kreider ended that in the first period.
Ryan McDonagh added another power-play goal in the second while Kevin Klein also scored, and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 31 shots for the visitors.
Evgeni Malkin had his third goal of the series for Pittsburgh but the hosts lacked the crispness that saw them win the previous two games in New York.
The Rangers were inspired by the late arrival of forward Martin St. Louis, who had spent the night in Montreal following the death of his mother. He told teammates he wanted to play, and got on the ice for 16 minutes.
The line of Brassard, Mats Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot rediscovered the success they enjoyed against Pittsburgh in the regular season and the series opener, combining for two goals and five assists.
New York has never won a playoff series after trailing 3-1 but kept alive its chance of jumping that hurdle. The team that had only 15 shots on goal throughout Game 4 came out and had 17 in the first period alone on Friday.
Kreider ended the miserable run in power-plays, threading a rebound from the bottom of the left circle in a small hole between Fleury’s right pad and his blocker to give the Rangers the lead.
Brassard made it 2-0 just over 5 minutes later, diving across the Pittsburgh crease to bang home a rebound.
The Penguins seemed to regain their swagger in the second period and Malkin cut the lead in half at the end of a thrilling burst in which he beat two Rangers to the net and did a 360- degree spin before slipping his own rebound by Lundqvist.
The momentum didn’t last. Brassard roofed a shot through a scrum in front of Fleury to make it 3-1 and McDonagh scored his first goal of the postseason with a shot through traffic from the point on a power-play after Pittsburgh was whistled for too many men on the ice.
Meanwhile, Minnesota put the series against Chicago back on an even keel with a 4-2 victory.
Allowing an average of less than 21 shots on goal per game in the series, the Wild improved to 5-0 at home this postseason with a 16-5 goal differential.
Chicago, blanked 4-0 in Game 3, has a habit of responding to playoff shutouts with big scores in the following game, but could not manage it this time, mustering only 20 shots for the game against Minnesota’s stifling defense.
Matt Cooke returned from a seven-game kneeing suspension to set up the Wild’s opening goal, swiping the puck from a defenseman before Justin Fontaine skidded a shot through an opponent’s legs.
Patrick Sharp snapped out of his slump by tying the game for the Blackhawks, slipping a wrist shot between Ilya Bryzgalov’s pads in the final minute of the first period.
The Wild went back ahead in the second period. Jason Pominville got his first goal of the series in fortuitous circumstances, with his tame shot from the end boards going off the back of the skate of Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford.
Once again the Blackhawks responded to tie the game 2-2 as Michal Handzus redirected a Brent Seabrook shot past Bryzgalov.
Within seconds, the Wild pulled ahead again when Crawford failed on an attempted glove save on Nino Niederreiter’s uncontested slap shot.
Then early in the third period, Minnesota scored an insurance goal. Mikko Koivu fed Jared Spurgeon for the power-play score. It was only the fourth time Chicago had conceded a goal with a man down in 42 attempts during this postseason.
The teams will return to Chicago for Game 5 on Sunday.