Penguins seem to be building confidence against Rangers

Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and teammates celebrate Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and teammates celebrate their 2-0 win against the New York Rangers in Game 3 of a second-round NHL playoff hockey series at Madison Square Garden on Monday, May 5, 2014. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

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There is certainly no comfort in a series lead this postseason, just as there is no comfort in leading during a game, what with the 18 two-goal leads lost so far throughout all playoff series.

But the Penguins seem to be building up their confidence, having not just shut out the Rangers the past two games to grab a 2-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference second round, but having won four of their last five games, dating to the final two games of their first-round win over the Blue Jackets.

"Even the first one we lost, I thought we played pretty well," Brandon Sutter said Tuesday. "Game 2 was probably the best 60-minute game we had this playoffs. Our goalie stole one [Monday] night and it's not always going to be pretty."

Marc-Andre Fleury has been the star of the past two games, posting back-to-back shutouts. But some other Penguins have been stepping to the fore, including Kris Letang.

The defenseman missed nearly 21/2 months after suffering a stroke in late January, returning to play the final three games of the regular season. He struggled against Columbus but has seemed to regain his form this series, regularly jumping up into the rush and using his speed to disrupt some of the Rangers forays into the Pittsburgh zone alongside defense partner Paul Martin, who has been paired with Letang while Brooks Orpik has been out all series with an injury.

"Less nervous, that's for sure," Letang said of how he's felt against the Rangers. "It's been 10 games maybe. I'm just trying to build off the good things. The first four games of the playoffs, I'm not going to lie, I was afraid to make a mistake. I got some critics last year in the playoffs for my defense. I just try to play my game, being aggressive, skating, being able to be in the play all the time. Once I was able to do that, my game changed."

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The Rangers certainly carried the play in Game 3, outshooting the Penguins, 35-15. Pittsburgh's opportunistic play -- it got both goals off turnovers in the Penguins zone -- and strong goaltending were supposed to be assets for the Rangers against the high-powered Penguins.

But another theme of these playoffs has been the need for all 18 skaters to be on the same page, and the Penguins, even with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, are not immune.

"Collectively we know if we don't play as a five-man unit on the ice we're not going to do anything good," Letang said. "We have Geno and Sid who can make those great goals end to end, but we need to have everyone."

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