After a rather disastrous start to the series, the New York Rangers responded this afternoon and defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins by a final score of 4-2. That earned the Rangers an even split in Pittsburgh, and they will return to Madison Square Garden with the series all knotted up at one. Henrik Lundqvist, who returned after leaving last game with an eye injury, had an extremely strong outing and completely shut down the Penguins.
Lunqvist's strong play was most evident during the first period, after the Penguins went right at the Rangers following the opening faceoff. Despite Pittsburgh having the slight edge in play, the Rangers were able to get out of the period with a scoreless tie, and looked to pick it up a notch during the second period. While the period didn't start out as planned, the Rangers rebounded after an early Pittsburgh goal and rattled off four consecutive goals.
Just 3:21 into the second period, Phil Kessel was able to open up the scoring for the Penguins after he capped off a beautiful passing play in front of the net. After touches from both Nick Bonino and Trevor Daley, the puck was left all alone in the high slot, and Kessel was able to slam the puck home with the net wide open. Henrik Lundqvist didn't stand much of a chance on the goal, and the Penguins were able to jump out to an early 1-0 lead.
The Rangers were clearly motivated following the goal, and as a result, they scored three straight goals within a matter of four minutes. Keith Yandle got things started for the Rangers after locating a loose puck off to the side of the net, and shoveling the puck over Jeff Zatkoff. A few seconds later, Derick Brassard was able to catch the Penguins napping on the backcheck and broke in all alone on a breakaway.
Brassard had plenty of time to pick his spot, and rifled a quick wrist shot just over the blocker hand of Zatkoff. The goal wound up being challenged by Mike Sullivan for offsides, but after a short review, there was no conclusive evidence to overturn the original call. About four minutes after Brassard's go ahead goal, Mats Zuccarello notched his first of the playoffs and doubled up the Rangers lead.
J.T. Miller created the entire goal with an excellent cross-ice feed over to Zuccarello, and put it right on his tape for the easy tap in. After a strong end to the second period, the momentum was very clearly in the Rangers favor, and they needed another strong 20 minutes to close out the game. Instead of sitting back with the lead, the Rangers continued to push the pace, and were eventually rewarded with yet another goal.
Just 39 seconds into the third period, Chris Kreider forced a turnover in front of the net, and caught a fortunate bounce after putting a shot on net. Kreider's shot took a slight deflection off of Trevor Daley's leg, and it was just enough to disrupt Zatkoff as he attempted to make the save. Following the goal, the Penguins received a bit of a jolt as they were rewarded a power play with a pair of penalties to Chris Kreider and Keith Yandle.
The Penguins were able to cash in early on during the power play, and Phil Kessel slammed home his second goal of the afternoon. Nick Bonino did an excellent job of making a quick pass in close, and found Kessel all alone off to the side of the net. For the remainder of the third period, the Rangers did an excellent job of shutting down the Penguins, with Henrik Lundqvist also doing a fair share of the work as well.
The Rangers were able to eventually close out the game, and after a strong outing, they will head back to New York with the series tied up at one. There will be a much needed two day break before both teams reconvene on Tuesday evening at Madison Square Garden.