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Rangers top Penguins, force deciding Game 7
New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - Martin St. Louis and Carl Hagelin scored within a three-minute span early in the contest, while Henrik Lundqvist made 36 saves, as the New York Rangers forced a Game 7 in this Eastern Conference semifinal with a 3-1 decision over Pittsburgh at Madison Square Garden.
Derick Brassard recorded the other tally for the Rangers, who have erased a 3-1 series deficit and can advance to the conference finals with a win on Tuesday back in the Steel City.
"We wanted a chance and we have given ourselves that chance," said Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault. "It is what it is. It's going to be a lot of fun."
Brandon Sutter provided the lone offense for the Penguins, who look to exploit home-ice advantage in the first-ever terminal game in a best-of-seven set between these clubs.
Marc-Andre Fleury struggled at times, taking the loss after stopping 26 shots.
Though a potential Derek Stepan rush was thwarted when his skates were entangled with a linesman on the game's first shift, the Rangers still struck first.
Stepan outraced Pens defenseman Letang to a puck behind the net and chipped it back to the point, where Anton Stralman shot it and the disc caromed off St. Louis at the right side and trickled home at 3:34.
"It was Mother's Day. My dad's here, my sister's here, it's been a tough time for my whole family ... it was a good moment," said an emotional St. Louis, still battling through the sudden death of his mother on Friday.
Hagelin then chased down a deflected Rob Bortuzzo shot along the left wing. His attempted pass across to a teammate to fuel a 2-on-1 failed, but he gathered the puck anyway and threaded a backhand through the crook of Fleury's arm at 6:25.
Sutter was credited with the Pens' opening goal, coming with 3:04 left in the first, when his attempt to the Rangers' net deflected off two Rangers defensemen -- John Moore and Kevin Klein -- then bounced past Lundqvist.
The pace intensified on both sides in the second period. Marcel Goc was sprung on a short-handed break with almost six minutes gone, but his backhander was denied by a diving Lundqvist. Chris Kreider then broke in, but barreled into Fleury and committed an interference penalty despite the puck sliding over the goal line.
New York eventually restored its two-goal edge, seconds after the completion of a Pittsburgh power play.
Fleury failed to glove a floater from Klein which was deflected en route by Benoit Pouliot. Brassard, stationed at the right post, chopped the puck into the air and then slammed it into the net once it settled into the crease while behind the goal line and partially obstructed by Fleury.
"It was just bouncing," Fleury offered. "I tried to bring it in to freeze it, but it bounced over my stick and then bounced to their guy over me. Just a bit of a scramble."
Stepan rang a shot off the near post from the left circle on the advantage with just over seven minutes left in regulation.
Fleury was called to the bench for an extra skater with 2:25 on the clock, and the visitors kept up the pressure.
Lundqvist made a right pad save on Jussi Jokinen from the high slot with 47 seconds to go, then two more quick stops on Letang and Jokinen with 31.1 showing which proved to be the Pens' final salvo in a losing cause.
"It's pretty clear, we didn't show up," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. The last two games our starts have hurt us, again tonight. We knew it was something we had to improve and we didn't. We paid the price for it. Hopefully, next game we learn those lessons."
In 16 previous playoff series the Rangers trailed three games to one, the franchise never rallied to win, and only reached a Game 7 once until this season, in 1939 against the Bruins before losing that contest in triple overtime ... Since 2009, the Pens have clinched seven of their eight series victories on the road, but the 2014 Eastern semis will have to be taken at CONSOL Energy Center ... Prior to Sunday, the teams only played one previous Game 6 -- the Patrick Division finals, a 5-1 Pittsburgh victory at Mellon Arena to close out that series on May 13, 1992 ... Lundqvist improved to 9-2 in his last 11 elimination games, with a 1.35 goals-against average and .955 save percentage. The Swedish backstop also upped his record to 7-0 in home elimination contests, with two shutouts and a GAA of 0.98.
05/11 23:54:38 ET
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