Rangers force Game 6 with rout of Penguins
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PITTSBURGH -- With an inspired performance starting on the first shift, the desperate Rangers rebounded from a dismal Game 4 effort and routed the Penguins, 5-1, in Game 5 last night to send the Eastern Conference semifinal series back to the Garden for Game 6 tomorrow.
Derick Brassard scored twice and Chris Kreider and Ryan McDonagh added power-play goals as the Rangers -- who entered the game in an 0-for-36 slump with the man-advantage -- avoided elimination. They trail three games to two in the best-of-seven series.
In four previous games, the Rangers scored only five goals against Marc-Andre Fleury. Last night, they had four before the midway point, and Kevin Klein's empty-netter capped the scoring with 2:29 left.
"In the first 10 minutes, I think we really took the game and we finally scored on the power play," Brassard said. "It's a big relief for our team and it's going to give us confidence. We haven't won a game in the series in our building. We're due there. We just want to come back here for Game 7."
It was a must-win game foreshadowed by shock and sadness. A grieving Martin St. Louis left the team for Montreal Thursday night after the unexpected death of his mother and returned for last night's dramatic win.
"We get another chance," coach Alain Vigneault said. "It's going to be on Mother's Day, which is going to be real special for our group."
The Rangers had lost three straight games in the series, and they made a determined push in the first period. The defensemen pinched, the forecheckers were a step ahead and Kreider made it 1-0 with the team's first power-play goal in 10 games.
With Robert Bortuzzo in the box for clearing the puck into the crowd, Kreider dived to poke a puck back to McDonagh at the left point and then went to the net, where he grabbed McDonagh's rebound and beat Fleury at 9:36.
The Rangers had 17 shots in the period, two more than they managed in all of Game 4.
The Penguins responded, and Henrik Lundqvist (31 saves) robbed Sidney Crosby's re-direction of Paul Martin's pass.
Brassard, whose overtime goal won Game 1, pounced on a rebound of a quick shot from the left circle by Mats Zuccarello (three assists) and backhanded the puck past Fleury with 4:37 left for a 2-0 lead that the Rangers took into the second period.
Early in the second period, Evgeni Malkin bulled between Dan Girardi and Marc Staal. Lundqvist stopped his initial shot, but the rebound went to the right, and with Lundqvist down, Malkin found the net from a sharp angle to make it 2-1 at 3:23.
But the Rangers survived the ensuing surge and Brassard went top shelf on his second rebound try at 7:58 to restore the two-goal lead. Then McDonagh scored over Fleury's shoulder on the power play at 8:48.
With 2:26 left in the second, Brassard went off for slashing Malkin. When Girardi went off for wrestling down Chris Kunitz, the Penguins had a two-man advantage for 1:23. Brian Boyle led the charge, knocking pucks off sticks and sliding to block a shot that cleared the zone. The Penguins had only one shot at a time when a goal might have tipped the scales.
Said Vigneault, "That was huge."
When trailing 3-1 in a playoff series, the Rangers are 0-16, and when up 3-1, the Penguins are 9-2. But six teams have come back from 3-1 deficits since 2009.
"We're still fighting for our lives," Boyle said. "We start from scratch again on Sunday.''