NEW YORK – The Pittsburgh Penguins have had so much success at Madison Square Garden, they might not have to make a return trip to Broadway until next season.
Brandon Sutter scored a short-handed goal to break a second-period tie, and the Penguins rode that momentum to move within one win of the Eastern Conference finals with a 4-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Wednesday night.
Pittsburgh, which has won three straight following a series-opening loss, can advance with a Game 5 victory at home Friday night. The Penguins are looking to reach the East finals for the second straight year and the fourth in seven seasons.
“We know they are going to be desperate,” Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said. “They have a lot of depth, and a lot of guys that can create things, so we have to have the same mentality that we had.”
The Penguins turned a tied series into a 3-1 lead at the Garden, where they have won seven of nine and are 12-4 since Dan Bylsma became their coach. Overall, Pittsburgh is 19-5 against the Rangers in the playoffs and 9-2 in New York.
“This is one of the best places to come in and play,” Bylsma said. “It’s a great building and we seem to always have a rivalry with the Rangers, so we don’t need that motivation for the playoffs. I don’t have a good recipe for you.”
A good start certainly helped.
Evgeni Malkin scored 2:31 in, and Jussi Jokinen made it 3-1 at 7:02 of the third before the teams traded late goals. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 13 shots.
The only negative for the Penguins was that Fleury allowed a goal for the first time in three games. Carl Hagelin’s tying tally in the second period was the Rangers’ first goal in 145 minutes, 30 seconds of playing time.
Mats Zuccarello cut it to 3-2 with 6:53 left on the Rangers’ second shot of the third, but Chris Kunitz restored Pittsburgh’s two-goal edge 57 seconds later.
Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves in the loss.
“This is not the ideal night for us,” New York forward Brad Richards said. “The good thing is . . . we’re still in it. We win Game 1, we are on top of the world. You lose three in a row, and as quick as it went that way it can go right back.
“We want to try to bring it back here. Our goal is to keep pushing the series along. You never know what can happen.”
The weary Rangers played for the sixth time in nine nights, and not even a full rest day on Tuesday or the return of forward Chris Kreider helped. Kreider played for the first time since breaking his left hand a month ago.
Jokinen, who has an eight-game points streak, made it 3-1 with a shot that struck the right leg of Rangers defenseman Marc Staal and bounded past Lundqvist.
Pittsburgh had regained the lead late in the second period by pouncing on New York’s inept power play. Not only did the Rangers fail to score for the 36th consecutive advantage, they fell behind for the second time.