(Photo: NHL)

The area around the Pittsburgh Penguins‘ net was crowded.

This was par for the course during game three of the Penguins/Rangers first-round series.  The New York Rangers had been able to generate solid offensive rushes and scoring chances all night.  During this particular possession, the puck went to Marc Staal, who shot it intentionally wide of the net. Using his size to his advantage, Chris Kreider then found himself in perfect position to bat the rebound in off the boards midway through the second period. It was an all but impossible angle.  The Rangers took a 2-0 lead.

The lead almost became 3-0 later in the period, when Derek Stepan had a breakaway toward the net.  This time, Marc-Andre Fleury was able to make a sprawling save and prevent the goal.  But even this stop wasn’t enough to give the Penguins the momentum they so desperately needed.

The Rangers defeated the Penguins 2-1 at CONSOL Energy Center on Monday night to take a 2 games-to-1 lead in the series.  From the start, the Rangers dominated offensively and defensively.  They pressured the Penguins in their zone throughout the entire game while limiting the home team to just three shots in the first period; in fact, the Rangers scored their first goal–a breakaway down the middle of the ice by Carl Hagelin at 8:43 in the first–almost seven minutes before the Penguins even registered their first shot on goal.

The Rangers’ defense also stepped up huge, particularly Dan Girardi, who would go on to earn the Broadway Hat for the night.  Girardi, who also assisted on both goals, was able to continuously clear the puck out of the Rangers’ zone on the penalty kill to keep the Penguins at bay, especially in the closing minutes of the game.  The Penguins cut the Rangers’ lead to 2-1 at 13:12 in the third with a goal by Patric Hornqvist; that goal sparked the Penguins’ offense for the rest of the game, and their compete level picked up significantly.  After having played a near-perfect 50 minutes on the road, the Rangers suddenly had to fight to close out the win.

The physicality of this game was amplified as well; Hornqvist and Maxim Lapierre remained thorns in the Rangers’ sides throughout the game.  Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz both made clear contact with Henrik Lundqvist within a few minutes of each other (though Lundqvist did his best to sell the first hit).  The Rangers fought back just as hard, and between the two teams, there were 80 hits over 60 minutes of play.

Look to see the tension between these two teams increase even more in Game Four.

THREE STARS OF THE GAME:

3. Kreider

2. Hornqvist

1. Lundqvist


 

LOOKING AHEAD/OF NOTE:

-There is still no timetable on Kevin Klein, although he has been skating with the team.  He also participated in the optional practice on Tuesday, according to the NY Rangers Twitter.

-Penguins GM Jim Rutherford reportedly lashed out at a columnist after the Game Three loss.


NEXT GAME:

The Rangers lead the series 2-1.  Game 4 takes place on Wednesday, April 22, at 7pm at CONSOL Energy Center.  It will be aired on NBCSN.

Stephanie is currently a student at Roger Williams University and is working toward a BFA in Creative Writing and Film. She is hoping to pursue a master's degree in Sports Journalism after graduating. Stephanie is a former basketball player and now enjoys writing from the sidelines (though she wouldn't be opposed to watching from a press box). She quite literally turned into a full-fledged hockey fan overnight, and she is the lone Rangers/Blackhawks fan in a family of hardcore Bruins fans. During the offseason, she enjoys writing, film, traveling, and theatre. Twitter: @stephanielynn_

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