No changes for the Penguins from Game 3 in terms of lineup or actual lines.
The Rangers decided to scratch Kevin Hayes (weird guy to stick in the dog-house) and played Oscar Lindberg in his place for his first action of the series.
The Penguins were awesome early, jumping out to a 6-0 shot advantage against a sluggish looking NYR squad. Ben Lovejoy carries the puck in the zone and fires a rather routine long-range shot at Henrik Lundqvist . Lundqvist almost always gobbles these up but a rebound kicks out to Eric Fehr who is able to poke it into the net. Defenseman Keith Yandle no where to be seen on this one and J.T. Miller couldn't get back in time. 1-0 Pens just 1:09 into the game.
The Pens would strike second as well, again early. After a needless Rick Nash offensive zone penalty (lol), Sidney Crosby redirects an Evgeni Malkin point-shot on the power play to put Pittsburgh up 2-0. On further review Patric Hornqvist tips it after Crosby does.. No chance for Lundqvist on this one.
Conor Sheary on a hell of an individual play, blocks down Kevin Klein's pass attempt, takes off to the races and then beats Lundqvist short-side at full speed on the breakaway. Was that Sheary or Martin Straka there? 3-0 Pens, still in the first!
(That ref is skating for dear life to GTFO of the way and he juuuust makes it)
The pain train keeps on rolling. Dominic Moore takes a penalty for holding Malkin and the Pens top unit goes back to work. Great pass and vision by Crosby to find Malkin at the point who just hammers the puck by Lundqvist for 4-0 lead.
~~Lundqvist removed at first TV timeout of the 2nd period (more below in the notes)
After J.T. Miller takes a vicious hack at Malkin's hand (let's see the social outrage from that segment of the NYR fanbase now, huh?), Malkin comes back and receives a great centering pass from Brian Dumoulin to score on the power play 5-0. Can't get much better than that.
- The Rangers were out to finish any and every hit on Kris Letang early in the game. As if being a #1 defenseman wasn't a big enough target, he definitely painted a bigger on his back for his high-stick last game on Viktor Stalberg.
- Trevor Daley went to the penalty box twice in the first period. Never ideal.
- Nick Bonino made a heck of a backchecking play in the 1st, lifting the stick of Jesper Fast right as he was going to shoot a loose puck from a prime scoring area. No shot on goal occurred. This was one of many good defensive plays the Pens made early, they had all the energy, all the determination, all the desire. A bit odd to see the Rangers come out so sluggish for a playoff game.
- After his PPG in the 2nd period, Malkin was at 1g+2a in just 5:09 played. That's some efficiency there.
- Lundqvist got pulled at 13:54 left of the 2nd, at the first TV timeout of the 2nd period. While the 2 PPG's given up weren't his fault, he didn't look sharp early - particularly on that Lovejoy slapper to give up an early goal that seemed to stun his team and they never got on track from there. Very rare to be gifted a game from one of the best goalies in the world.
- Can't say enough about Hornqvist. The double-deflection goal, also earned an assist taking abuse (but customarily keeping focus on the puck) on a PPG and getting 7 shots on goal. He's just unflappable.
- No matter where you think Malkin should play, his wizardry on the power play continues. Pens PP went 3 for 5, with Malkin factoring in on all goals with the man advantage (2g +1a).
- The Rangers showed some half-hearted life throwing 14 3rd period shots, and to be fair Matt Murray did have to be a little sharp to earn his first career NHL playoff shutout.
- In 2014 the Pens were also leading the Rangers 3 games to 1 and all was sunshine and happiness until it all came crashing down. But something about this series and Pittsburgh's mastery of Lundqvist and control of possession in the last two games just makes this season feel a whole lot different.
- It's still a cautionary tale, though. For us as fans at least. NHL series aren't over until 4 wins are in the books. The Pens have 3. This is very good, but it's far from over yet. 1 more game is needed. If the Pens can come out as strong on Saturday in Pittsburgh as they've been the past few days, that's all it should take.
If the Rangers are the "Blueshirts", I suppose that makes the Penguins the blouses on a day like today. So it's only fitting that there's a very emphatic finish.
Game 5 on Saturday. Be there or be square.