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 visiting New York Rangers last night, tying the second-round series at 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 6 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 2 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 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.
Lundqvist made his 75th career playoff appearance. He will tie Mike Richter's club record for playoff appearances if he starts as expected tonight.
* At Chicago, Bryan Bickell had a goal and two assists, and the Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild, 4 -1, to take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.
Brandon Saad scored his first two goals of the postseason, and Chicago earned its sixth consecutive win despite stretches of lackluster play in the second and third periods. Corey Crawford made 18 saves in another solid performance.
Cody McCormick scored his second career playoff goal, but Minnesota missed another chance to steal home-ice advantage from the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Chicago played without forward Andrew Shaw, who was out with a lower-body injury. Shaw left the series opener after he was hit hard by Stoner. He appeared to favor his right side as he made his way off the ice.