PITTSBURGH – With their captain under fire and their season on the brink of collapse, the Pittsburgh Penguins responded with a crackling show of force.
Of course, having the New York Rangers look like a team only too happy to get back home with a split helped.
Kris Letang broke a scoreless tie in the second period, and Marc-Andre Fleury made 22 saves for his franchise-record seventh playoff shutout to lift the Penguins to a 3-0 victory on Sunday night, tying their Eastern Conference semifinal series 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 pushed around the suddenly weary Rangers.
Fleury earned his 50th career playoff victory.
“I thought to a man our players were extremely good all night,” Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. “It was a huge win for us.”
Game 3 is Monday night in New York.
Henrik Lundqvist made 32 saves for New York, but the Rangers mustered little offense while playing their fourth game in six days. Not that coach Alain Vigneault wanted to blame fatigue for a listless performance.
“Did my goaltender look tired? He was on top of his game,” Vigneault said. “If he’s not tired, nobody else should be.”
New York has lost eight straight Game 2s and has dropped 13 consecutive games when leading in a series.
The Rangers had their chances to jump ahead early, only to be let down again by an anemic power play.
Three times in the first 10 minutes a Penguins player skated to the penalty box, and three times New York spent two minutes milling about as though it was killing time before getting back to even strength.
“It could have given us some momentum, and we didn’t finish,” Vigneault said. “I’ve got to find the right trigger points here to make it work. We’ll spend the night trying to figure it out.”
Blackhawks 4, Wild 1
In Chicago, Bryan Bickell had a goal and two assists, and the Blackhawks beat Minnesota 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.
“There were bits of that third where it wasn’t looking good, but we just stuck with it,” Bickell said. “Leave it to our D and Crawford to keep the puck out of the net. We need to be smarter defensively in positioning, but we stuck with it and got over the hump.”
Cody McCormick scored the second playoff goal of his career, but the Wild missed another chance to steal home-ice advantage from the defending Stanley Cup champions.
“We weren’t that far off,” Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said. “Even though, again, I know we can play better. We weren’t that far off. That game was hanging for us.”