Penguins lay beatdown on Rangers, look like serious contenders as they head to Round Two

Conor Sheary (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

No team was better than the Pittsburgh Penguins over the final two months of the season. If that hadn’t been clear through the first four games of their first-round series against the New York Rangers, it definitely was after the 6-3 drubbing they handed down to take Game 5 and advance to the second round of the post-season.

Over the final two months of the season, the Penguins dominated opponents with the league’s best offense, second-stingiest defense and a counter-punching attack that could turn even the slightest odd-man break into a goal. Pittsburgh also maintained the second-best possession rate in the league over that span, and it doesn’t hurt that they have arguably the world’s greatest player on the roster in Sidney Crosby, with a supporting cast that includes Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Patric Hornqvist.

Before the series began, the Penguins were considered contenders. After wiping out the Rangers with relative ease in five games, Pittsburgh looks like they’re among the class of the East. Read more

Watch Phil Kessel rip shot past Henrik Lundqvist in busy first period

Jared Clinton
Phil Kessel (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

Through four post-season games, Phil Kessel had two goals and four points, but he came into Saturday’s elimination game flying.

With the Penguins having the opportunity to move into the second round with a Game 5 win over the New York Rangers, Kessel helped Pittsburgh draw even early with a nice pass to Carl Hagelin, but it was Kessel’s third goal of the playoffs that was most impressive.

Midway through the second period, Kessel sped down the right wing while the Penguins were on the power play and took a picture-perfect pass from Sidney Crosby mid-stride. Kessel’s speed had the Rangers defense turned by the time he received the pass, and with New York blueliner Marc Staal attempting to close off Kessel’s space by reaching in with a poke check, the Penguins winger rifled one of his signature shots: Read more

Henrik Lundqvist gets yanked early, Evgeni Malkin leads dominant Penguins to brink of series win

(Getty Images)

For the second time in eight days, Henrik Lundqvist had his start come to an abrupt end. But unlike Game 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Rangers all-star goalie was yanked on Thursday due to performance.

Lundqvist’s Game 4 start lasted only 18 shots, and 26 minutes. He gave up four goals before he was pulled with the Rangers desperate for a boost. It didn’t work, and now the Rangers have to go to Pittsburgh for a must-win game on Saturday. The Penguins routed the Rangers 5-0 and head home with a 3-1 series lead.

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Tyler Seguin, Marc-Andre Fleury sidelined at least one more game each

Tyler Seguin (Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

Two teams in control of their respective series must soldier on without key contributors for at least one more game in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Dallas Stars center and second-leading regular season scorer Tyler Seguin will officially miss Game 5 against the Minnesota Wild as he continues to recover from his lacerated Achilles, reports Stars beat writer and THN correspondent Mike Heika. Seguin sustained the injury March 17 against the Tampa Bay Lightning and missed a month, returning only for Game 2 against Minnesota April 16.

Did Seguin aggravate his injury by returning too early last week? Not exactly, reports Heika. He asked coach Lindy Ruff and got the following answer: “Not his injury, but this is kind of related and might be kind of a fallout of all of the sudden playing at a high pace.”

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Suspend him or not: Kris Letang gets away with an absurdly violent slash in Game 3

letang slash

Full marks to the Pittsburgh Penguins for winning Game 3 against the New York Rangers Tuesday night. Details here. But, sheesh, things might have gone differently had the referees caught defenseman Kris Letang’s dastardly act in the third period.

The Penguins led 2-1 at this point, so the Rangers surely could’ve used a power play, and they deserved to get one here. Check out the over-the-top slash from Letang on Rangers right winger Viktor Stalberg:

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Penguins smother Rangers to win Game 3. Here’s why New York should be worried

Matt Cullen celebrates his third-period goal in Game 3. (Jared Silber/Getty Images)

The conditions were perfect, in theory, for the New York Rangers to take over their Metropolitan Division semifinal matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday night in Game 3. The Blueshirts were fresh off a convincing 4-2 victory over the Pens in Game 2. New York had captain Ryan McDonagh returning from a hand injury after missing the start of the post-season. And Pittsburgh was turning to Matt Murray, 21, for his first career playoff start in net.

But it wasn’t to be. Murray, an elite prospect ranked 39th overall in THN Future Watch, showed no signs of jitters in his first game back from a head injury. He challenged shooters and made a few tough saves early. His lone hiccup came on this downright pretty Rick Nash goal early in the second period:

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Banged-up Rangers give Raphael Diaz a call for blueline support

Raphael Diaz (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

First Ryan McDonagh, then Dan Girardi. The New York Rangers are living the “war of attrition” storyline that often dominates the Stanley Cup playoffs and they’re doing it right away. With those two regulars sidelined, the Rangers have called up defenseman Raphael Diaz from the AHL. When will he play?

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Brassard, Rangers even series with Penguins

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

Derick Brassard scored and added two assists and Henrik Lundqvist turned aside 29 shots as the New York Rangers evened the best-of-seven series with the Pittsburgh Penguins at 1-1 with a 4-2 win on Saturday.

With the Rangers trailing 1-0, Keith Yandle and Brassard scored 18-seconds apart in the second period. After Mats Zuccarello gave New York a 3-1 lead, Brassard set up Chris Kreider giving the visitors a 4-1 lead.

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