PITTSBURGH - The best road team in the NHL rose to the occasion Monday night as the Rangers rebounded from a shaky home loss on Saturday and grabbed a 2-1 series lead with a 2-1 win over the Penguins.
The Penguins must win three of the next four games, starting with Game 4 here Wednesday night, to avoid being eliminated from the postseason by a Rangers squad that won 28 games away from Madison Square Garden during the regular season.
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"It's a big response for us to have that type of effort," Marc Staal said. "They felt pretty good about themselves after winning Game 2. We were better in the neutral zone, our back pressure was good, the gaps were better. It allowed us to play our game and force some turnovers."
Leading 2-0 on goals from Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider, the Rangers lapsed in the third and couldn't clear the puck in a scramble in front of Henrik Lundqvist, and Patric Hornqvist trimmed the lead to 2-1 with 6:48 left.
"It was tough seeing the puck," Lundqvist said of the third period. "They kept coming and they were around the crease a lot. It was definitely challenging."
Entering Monday night, after a playoff loss, Lundqvist was 16-10 with a 1.81 goals-against average, a .935 save percentage and four shutouts in 26 playoff appearances.
Lundqvist was not overly tested in the first 40 minutes, making only 11 saves as the Rangers killed two power plays and kept most shots to the outside and without traffic to block Lundqvist's view.
In the third period, Lundqvist stopped 12 of 13 shots. He denied Sidney Crosby with his stick on the doorstep and fought off a furious Penguins push in the last six minutes.
With 3:29 left, Dan Boyle and David Perron were sent off for roughing. With Marc-Andre Fleury pulled, Lundqvist got a right pad on Chris Kunitz's tip at the buzzer as Dom Moore and Crosby grappled.
The game featured a poised, defense-first resolve led by Dan Girardi, who collected two assists and blocked three shots.
After the Rangers held the Penguins to three shots in the first period and took a 1-0 lead, Marc Staal intentionally shot wide of the net and the puck caromed off the end boards. Kreider, at the left post, batted it out of the air and past Fleury at 11:07 of the second period for a 2-0 lead.
For the third consecutive game, the Rangers struck first.
Keith Yandle, who skipped the morning skate with a touch of the flu, fired a tape-to-tape pass up the middle to Hagelin at the blue line during a Penguins line change. The Swedish winger raced in and seemed to surprise Fleury with a slap shot. The puck glanced off Fleury's pads and in at 8:43. It was Yandle's third assist of the series.
Yandle said of his pass to Hagelin, "I saw them going off [on a line change] and I saw him taking off. He's one of the best skaters in the league."
The goal came soon after Yandle stifled Crosby's rush down the right side, which left the crowd yelping for an interference penalty. "I thought for the first two periods we dictated the pace of the game the way we wanted to," Yandle said. "A good, solid effort."
The Rangers had their 13th power play of the series early, when Ian Cole was whistled for cross-checking Tanner Glass from behind at 3:10. But they had no shots on Fleury and fell to 2-for-13 in the series.
The Penguins didn't have a shot on Lundqvist until 15:10, and the closest they got to tying it was when Hornqvist's forecheck freed the puck deep for Crosby, who fired from the right circle. The puck clanged the far post with 3:24 to play.
"You always have to respond in the series, not only with the win, but the way we play," Lundqvist said. "This was definitely a step in the right direction for us."