PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Penguins’ strategy to conquer New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist is to make him feel as if his castle is under siege.
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“It’s not going to happen with one shot, not going to happen with one play,” Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. “We have to go after it, and go after him with the puck.”.
That’s how the Penguins beat Lundqvist Monday, scoring on a deflection off a defenseman’s stick, on a rebound and on an empty-netter to defeat the Rangers 3-0 to tie up their Eastern Conference semifinal 1-1 going into Monday’s Game 3 in New York’s Madison Square Garden.
“We knew we were going to have fight, scratch and claw to get one by him and luckily we did,” Bylsma said.
The Penguins killed off three Rangers’ power plays in the opening 10 minutes in what was clearly their best all-around performance of the postseason. They had given up three or more goals in six of their previous seven playoff games.
“Maybe our penalty killers set the tone for us,” Bylsma said.
The return of Brian Gibbons from injury seemed to give the Penguins a lift, particularly on the penalty killing.
“I thought he had an impact on the game,” Bylsma said. “His speed was a factor.”.
Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang scored one goal and added two assists in his best overall performance since coming back from a stroke suffered earlier this season.
“They made it difficult for us all over the ice to make decisions,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said.
Coming into the series, it seemed as if an offensive battle favored the Penguins and a goaltending battle favors the Rangers. But the Penguins won this goaltending battle, thanks to the play of Marc-Andre Fleury.
While Lundqvist was playing brilliantly, making 33 saves, Fleury was perfect, making 22 saves for his 50th career postseason win and seventh playoff shutout.
“The guys played great start to finish,” Fleury said.
After four consecutive subpar playoffs, Fleury was considered a player with something to prove. He has a.914 save percentage this postseason, higher than the save percentage he had when he helped the Penguins win the Stanley Cup in 2009.
Lundqvist looked invincible until Letang’s attempt to pass in front deflected off New York defenseman Dan Girardi’s stick and into the net.
“You expect (Lundqvist) to be great in the game and he was tonight,” Bylsma said. “We know that’s what we are going to be dealing with.”.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby didn’t break out of his goal scoring slump, but he had six shots on goals, made some nifty moves and was robbed a couple of times by Lundqvist. “He was dangerous,” Letang said.
Byslma said “almost to a man our game was at another level”, and he said Crosby’s leadership played a role in that.
The Penguins have been sloppy defensively throughout the postseason, but looked much sharper in Game 2 against the Rangers.
The Rangers have played four games in six nights, but Vigneault wouldn’t make excuses.
“Did my goaltender look tired,” Vigneault asked. “If he is not tired, nobody else should be.”.