Penguins 7, Rangers 4
PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Who said the Pittsburgh Penguins can’t win without Mario Lemieux setting the scoreboard on fire?
The Penguins have done just that in the first two games of their Patrick Division playoff series with the New York Rangers. After Lemieux managed just an assist in Wednesday’s 3-1 opening victory, he got one empty-net goal Thursday as the Penguins won 7-4.
Tight checking by Lucien DeBlois and Jan Erixon has stymied Lemieux. But it hasn’t staggered the Penguins, who took a 2-0 lead in a playoff series for just the fourth time.
″I don’t see why we can’t (win without Mario scoring),″ Randy Cunneyworth said. ″We have a lot of capable people. There is no reason why other guys can’t take a little responsibility upon themselves and help out. That’s exactly what happened.″
Kevin Stevens, Rob Brown and Jock Callender got Pittsburgh started in grand style. They scored in a 91-second span to spark a five-goal first period. The Rangers never recovered.
″We need that if things are going to happen,″ Penguins coach Gene Ubriaco said. ″Those people have got to come up.″
Just about every Penguin came up with another solid effort. Phil Bourque, Randy Cunneyworth and Zarley Zalapski also scored, while Paul Coffey had three assists.
″This is what we need in the playoffs,″ Stevens said. ″You can’t rely on Mario all the time. If they are going to tie him up, other people have to come through.″
Lemieux seemed willing to accept the close attention as long as his teammates got free.
″That’s something that is going to happen for the whole series,″ Lemieux said of the shadowing. ″All I can do is make some openings for the wingers, make some passes and go to the net. If I can bring a couple guys with me, we can score some goals. That’s all I have to do if they keep doing that.″
The Rangers must turn things around quickly - beginning at home Saturday and Sunday nights . They are 0-4 since Phil Esposito fired Michel Bergeron and replaced him as coach last Saturday. New York has lost 14 of its last 17 games.
″Absolutely nothing positive except we won the third period,″ said John Vanbiesbrouck, who replaced Bob Froese in the New York goal at 13:02 of the opening period and the Penguins ahead 5-1. ″We have a chance to win at home. It makes me feel a little better going home, but it would have been better if we had won here.
″I feel as bad as the rest of the guys, I was part of a loss. It’s not time to look at other people. We have to do it for ourselves. We have to look at ourselves. We have taken the easy way out for the last month of the season.″
The Penguins took charge early. Stevens scored at 3:06 off Cunneyworth’s hard pass from the right boards. Just 29 seconds later, Brown made it 2-0 when he banged the rebound of Coffey’s shot past Froese.
Callender gave the Penguins a three-goal lead at 4:37 when he skated out of the corner, worked his way in front and slid the puck under Froese.
Guy Lafleur beat goaltender Tom Barrasso with a high 30-foot slap shot during a power-play at 6:36. But the Penguins increased their lead to 5-1 when Bourque scored on a slap shot and Cunneyworth on a backhander.
Brian Leetch narrowed the gap to 5-2 with a 50-foot screened slap shot during a 5-on-3 power play.
Pittsburgh’s Zarley Zalapski had the only goal of the second period, a 20- foot shot from the slot. The Rangers made it close in the third period when John Ogrodnick scored during a power play and Carey Wilson knocked in a loose puck during a goalmouth scramble.