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Penguins move one step closer to Eastern Final with Game 4 victory

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On Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Penguins moved one step closer to the Eastern Conference Final with a game 4 victory over the New York Rangers. Marc-Andre Fleury saw his shutout streak come to an end, but he was still very solid in net as the series heads back to Pittsburgh with the Penguins up 3-1.

It didn’t take the Penguins too long to pick up where they left off in games 2 and 3. About two and a half minutes into the first period, Pittsburgh put the pressure on Henrik Lundqvist. Evgeni Malkin carried the puck into the Rangers’ zone and passed to Sidney Crosby. It then appeared as though Crosby was looking to center the puck to Chris Kunitz, but it was deflected. However, the puck found its way to Malkin who made a 360 spin to beat Lundqvist with a backhand shot to give the Penguins the 1-0 lead. The Penguins took their 1-0 lead into the intermission while also leading in shots, 7-6.

The Rangers punched back in the second period when Carl Hagelin took a pass from Ryan McDonagh and split Matt Niskanen, who was going for a change, and Rob Scuderi on his way to sniping a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury to tie the game at one. In the closing minutes of the period, Malkin was assessed a tripping penalty to put the Rangers on the power play. New York’s power play was been abysmal as of late, and it might have hit rock bottom here. Rick Nash attempted to get the puck to Dan Girardi sitting at the blue line, but Kris Letang chopped the puck back to center ice where Brian Gibbons took over. Gibbons skated in on Lundqvist, and attempted to make one too many moves. Gibbons’ whiff quickly became a drop pass as Brandon Sutter swooped in to knock home what Gibbons will be claiming was a drop pass to give Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead on the shorthanded tally. At the second break, Pittsburgh led 2-1, and continued to dominate the shots category, 11-5.

With a 2-1 lead, the Penguins put the nail in the coffin in the third period. At 7:02, James Neal took the puck from Marc Staal, and dropped it back to Jussi Jokinen. From there on it was all Jokinen. Jokinen took a backhand shot that was defended away behind the net. From there he regained possession, skated to the other side of the Ranger goal, and wristed a shot that deflected off of Staal and behind Lundqvist to increase the Penguins’ lead to 3-1. Mats Zuccarello brought the Rangers back into the game at 13:07 with a backhand shot that found its way behind Fleury to make it a 3-2 game, but about a minute later; Chris Kunitz put the game out of reach when he took a pass from Malkin and slapped the puck past the Ranger goaltender to give Pittsburgh the 4-2 victory.

The series now heads back to Pittsburgh for game 5 on Friday night with the opportunity for the Penguins to send the Rangers home for the summer.

Notes:

-Brooks Orpik returned to the lineup for the Penguins, but left the game sometime in the first period.

-Chris Kreider made his return to the Rangers’ lineup for the first time since March 24th.

-Marc Staal may be the worst Staal. He has made some questionable hits throughout the series, and has appeared to target Sidney Crosby’s head.

-Rangers registered fifteen shots. All game. Fifteen shots. Enough said.

-Rangers fans looked to have turned on Rick Nash, showering him with boos at games end.

Three stars:

1. PIT C Evgeni Malkin (1G, 1A)

2. PIT C Brandon Sutter (1G)

3. PIT C Sidney Crosby (2A)

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