Lundqvist made 29 saves, Miller had three primary assists on three second-period goals and Derick Brassard had a goal and two assists as the Rangers evened the series with a chippy 4-2 win at Consol Energy Center despite Evgeni Malkin returning to the Penguins’ lineup.
The Rangers trail the series 1-0 after dropping the opener 5-2 on Wednesday, a game in which Lundqvist was forced to leave after the first period due to blurred vision and swelling around the right eye. The Rangers trailed 1-0 when he left, with Antti Raanta finishing up. The Rangers played sound defense throughout the third period to close out the game.Kessel has 15 goals and nine assists in 24 career playoff games.Lundqvist is 54-56 with a 2.22 goals-against average and.
Both defensemen from the top pairing that led them to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, captain Ryan McDonagh (right hand) and Dan Girardi (injury), sat out, McDonagh for the second straight game and Girardi for the first.
For a player who’s scored 27 goals in 57 games this season, Malkin’s insertion into the lineup could have messed with the chemistry of things, as the Penguins were 14-2 without him. The Penguins are in the midst of some goaltending issues of their own as Marc-Andre Fleury’s status is up in the air and while Jeff Zatkoff played well in game one and could diffuse some of the discussion surrounding Fleury’s return you can be sure the team would love to have the former first overall pick back between the pipes. Pittsburgh’s only goals today came on the power-play, something that is a bit different from the way the Penguins normally score. “It was a good feeling leaving that doctor appointment knowing I was ready to go”. Olli Maatta’s misplay led to Brassard’s break-in finish for the Rangers’ first lead of the series. “You want to be out there playing and trying to make a difference”.
Of course, the most important adjustment was a no-brainer for Vigneault and that was re-inserting a healthy Lundqvist back in net.
Defenseman Marc Staal accidentally poked Lundqvist near the eye with his stick late in the first period of Game 1.
ABOUT THE RANGERS: Lundqvist is expected to play as long as there are no adverse effects from Friday’s practice and his importance to NY can not be overstated – he entered the postseason winning his last four playoff starts at Pittsburgh while surrendering a total of four goals.
That allowed Mats Zuccarello to make it 3-1 before the end of a period that swung the entire game. Only Kessel managed to beat Lundqvist, landing his second of the day and second on the power play early in the third. “It seems like we’ve had a lot of games like that in this building”.
With Lundqvist being cleared to play, he will continue adding onto his impressive playoff game started streak.
Games Three and Four will be played at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday and Thursday next week, with both games starting at 7:00 PM.
The series shifts to Philadelphia for Game 3 on Monday night.