PITTSBURGH – Kris Letang broke a scoreless tie in the second period and Marc-Andre Fleury made 22 saves for his seventh playoff shutout to lift the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 3-0 victory over the New York Rangers Sunday night, tying the second-round series one game apiece.
Letang’s 15th career postseason goal matched Larry Murphy’s record for Penguins defensemen. Jussi Jokinen scored during a third-period power play, and Evgeni Malkin added an empty-net goal for the Penguins, who managed a home split in the first two games with the suddenly weary Rangers.
Game 3 is tonight in New York.
Henrik Lundqvist made 32 saves for New York, but the Rangers mustered little offense while playing their fourth game in six days. New York’s limp power play went 0 for 4 and hasn’t scored in 29 straight advantages.
The Rangers have lost eight straight Game 2s and have dropped 12 consecutive games when leading in a series.
They had their chances to jump ahead early, only to be let down again by the power play.
Three times in the first 10 minutes New York went to the power play, and three times the Rangers spent two minutes skating around as though they were killing time before getting back to even strength.
Only Lundqvist seemed interested in sending the Rangers back to New York with a commanding 2-0 lead. He was typically brilliant, particularly when Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby was on the ice.
The NHL’s leading scorer and Hart Trophy finalist is in the midst of a lengthy postseason scoring funk. He began the night without a goal in 12 straight playoff games, a span that included 327 shifts and 275 minutes of ice time. However, the slump has had Crosby’s teammates rising to the captain’s defense.
Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma insisted early Sunday he anticipated seeing Crosby at his “best” with the season possibly at stake.
Bylsma was right. For the first time in weeks, Crosby looked like himself. Relentless at both ends of the ice, the jump in his game that was missing at times during a listless performance in Game 1 returned.
During one stretch at the end of the first period he produced a pair of scoring opportunities, including a nifty deke around two defenders before he ripped a wrist shot that just missed the net.
Each time Crosby appeared poised to end the drought, Lundqvist found a way to get a piece of the puck. He made a sprawling leg save on a tip-in attempt by Crosby, though Lundqvist wasn’t so fortunate the next time down.
Chris Kunitz began a breakout by feeding Malkin at the New York blue line. Malkin slipped the puck over to Letang, who flipped it at the end. Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi dived headfirst to block the attempted pass to Kunitz. Girardi did his job, but the puck deflected off his stick and past a surprised Lundqvist to give Pittsburgh the lead.
Fleury had little problem letting the one-goal advantage stand up. The Rangers rarely challenged him over the final 30 minutes, and Jokinen and Malkin removed any remaining drama by scoring twice in the last 5 minutes.
Jokinen banged in a rebound off a shot by James Neal for his fourth goal of the playoffs with 3:30 remaining. Malkin beat two Rangers to tap in an empty-net goal with 54 seconds left as the Penguins exhaled.
Lundqvist made his 75th career playoff appearance. He will tie Mike Richter’s club record for playoff appearances if he starts as expected on Monday night. ... Pittsburgh D Brooks Orpik missed his fourth straight game with an undisclosed injury. ... The Penguins are 2-6 in their last eight Game 2s.