NEW YORK – Brandon Sutter scored a short-handed goal to break a second-period tie, and the Pittsburgh Penguins moved within one win of the Eastern Conference finals with a 4-2 victory over the New York Rangers Wednesday night.
Pittsburgh, which has won three straight following a series-opening loss, can advance with a Game 5 victory at home Friday night.
Evgeni Malkin scored 2:31, and Jussi Jokinen made it 3-1 at 7:02 of the third before the teams traded late goals. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 13 shots.
The only negative for the Penguins was that Fleury allowed a goal for the first time in three games. Carl Hagelin’s tying tally in the second period was the Rangers’ first goal in 145 minutes, 30 seconds of playing time.
Mats Zuccarello backhanded in a goal with 6:53 left to cut the Rangers’ deficit to 3-2, on only their second shot of the third, but Chris Kunitz restored Pittsburgh’s two-goal edge 57 seconds later.
Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves in the loss.
The weary Rangers played for the sixth time in nine nights, and not even a full day of rest on Tuesday or the return of forward Chris Kreider helped them. Kreider played for the first time since breaking his left hand a month ago.
Jokinen, who has an eight-game points streak, scored his insurance goal with a flip shot that struck the right leg of Rangers defenseman Marc Staal and bounded past Lundqvist.
Pittsburgh had regained the lead late in the second period by taking advantage of New York’s inept power play. Not only did the Rangers fail to score for the 36th consecutive time on the power play, they fell behind for the second time.
In what was shaping up to be the Rangers’ best second period of the series, New York threw all the momentum back to the Penguins when Sutter scored with 1:33 left. The Rangers turned over the puck shortly after a drop pass in the neutral zone. Brian Gibbons streaked in alone and had his shot stopped by Lundqvist, but the rebound sat in front. Sutter swooped in to knock in his fourth of the postseason to put Pittsburgh back in front.
The Rangers broke out of their scoring drought 4:30 into the second when Ryan McDonagh passed the puck from his end into the neutral zone to Hagelin, who took off with a burst of speed, split the defense, and snapped his third goal of the playoffs past Fleury to tie it.
It was New York’s first goal since Derick Brassard’s overtime winner in Game 1.
Any early lift the Rangers got from the return of Kreider was lost when Malkin gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead.
New York contributed greatly as a turnover by defenseman Anton Stralman started the play. The Penguins pressured and moved the puck freely. Sidney Crosby got it to the right of Lundqvist and sent a pass across the slot – that slid past Kunitz and somehow eluded Staal – onto the stick of Malkin, who turned and snapped in a backhander for his fifth of the playoffs on Pittsburgh’s first shot.
The Rangers’ sloppiness didn’t end there as several passes missed their targets, and multiple clearing attempts ended up on Penguins sticks. But New York mounted an extended challenge and kept the puck in the Pittsburgh end for at least a minute with about 6 minutes remaining in the first period.
However, despite tiring out the Penguins who were caught on ice for a long shift, the Rangers recorded only one shot during the sequence and ended it when Staal was called for slashing — Pittsburgh’s second power play of the period.
The Rangers killed it and then got their first power play when Kunitz took a retaliatory slashing penalty against Staal that carried into the second period.