NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Wednesday, May 7th (All times Eastern)
Pittsburgh Penguins (2-1) at New York Rangers (1-2), 7:30 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Rangers hope to fix their scoring woes and even things in the Eastern Conference semifinals, as they host the Pittsburgh Penguins in Wednesday's Game 4 clash from Madison Square Garden.
Derick Brassard won Game 1 for the Rangers by scoring 3:06 into overtime, but that was the last time New York was able to find the back of the net. The Blueshirts enter Wednesday riding a scoreless drought of 120 minutes, but they have a chance to tie the series at two games apiece in Game 4.
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has posted a pair of shutout victories since Game 1, stopping 22 shots in Sunday's 2-0 home win before turning aside 35 shots to help his club take Game 3 in New York. The back-to-back shutouts marks the first time the Rangers have been blanked in consecutive playoff games since the 1937 Stanley Cup Finals against the Detroit Red Wings.
At the heart of New York's scoring issues is the club's ongoing power-play struggles. The Rangers haven't scored with the man advantage since Game 2 of their seven-game series win over Philadelphia in the opening round, failing to convert on their last 34 power-play opportunities.
All told, New York is just 3-for-42 on the power play in these playoffs for a paltry success rate of 7.1 percent. The club is 0-for-13 in the first three games of this series.
Although they lost 2-0 to the visiting Penguins in Monday's Game 3, the Rangers did show signs of breaking out of their offensive slump. They outshot Pittsburgh 35-13 in the loss and Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault is confident his team can build off that effort in Game 4.
"Our most important game is tomorrow," Vigneault said during a conference call on Tuesday. "The fact that we were able to put such a strong game on the ice (Monday) gives me a lot of optimism tomorrow. I understand we didn't score and we didn't finish those opportunities, but I believe with this day off here, our execution might be a bit better tomorrow. I am going in there with a lot of confidence, and I'm sure our players feel the same way."
New York could get fresh legs to help its sagging offense in Game 4. Chris Kreider hasn't played since March 24, but the speedy forward could be ready to return from surgery on his left hand. Kreider participated in the morning skate on Wednesday and is questionable for this evening's battle.
The 23-year-old Kreider scored 17 goals in 66 games for the Rangers this season, including six on the power play. Although Kreider was technically a rookie in 2013-14, the Boston College product skated for New York in each of the past two postseasons and has posted six goals and three assists over 26 career playoff games.
"The size and speed he has would put pressure on (the Penguins) defense, and obviously Kreids is real good with the net presence on the power play," Vigneault said of what a healthy Kreider could bring to the table.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is hoping it can continue to frustrate the Rangers and take a 3-1 lead on Wednesday. A third straight win in Game 4 would give the Pens an opportunity to close the series on home ice this Friday at CONSOL Energy Center.
While New York feel deeper into an offensive slide, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was able to snap his personal 13-game playoff goal-scoring drought in Game 3.
Crosby opened the scoring 2:34 into the second period to give Pittsburgh all the offense it would need to take Game 3, while Fleury did the rest.
"(Fleury) was solid all game long," Crosby said. "(New York) had a lot of power plays and he made some huge saves throughout."
Fleury became the first Penguins goalie to record back-to-back playoff shutouts and the first to record two shutouts in a series, He also extended his own franchise record with his eighth career playoff shutout ..
Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist, meanwhile, faced only 15 shots and was also beaten by Jussi Jokinen, who scored seconds after exiting the penalty box to make it a 2-0 game with 4:40 left in the second period. Jokinen extended his career-high playoff point streak to seven games with the tally.
"It's first to four wins, we just need to take a deep breath here and regroup tomorrow and just get ready for the next one," Lundqvist said. "That's going to be a very important game for us. This is definitely not over. We're playing well and creating chances. There are a couple things we can probably do better. Let's not over think this, just take a day here tomorrow to reload and get ready for a very big game."
The Rangers played on back-to-back days for the second time in these playoffs (Games 6 and 7 in the first round against Philadelphia), and Monday's contest was their fifth in seven days overall.
New York is aiming for its first playoff series win against Pittsburgh, which has won all four previous postseason meetings. The Pens boast an 18-5 all-time record against the Rangers in the playoffs and a 7-3 mark at the Garden.
Overall, the Rangers have won seven of 10 and 12 of their last 18 home playoff games.
05/07 10:52:07 ET