Broken Clouds 44° Good Afternoon
Broken Clouds 44° Good Afternoon

Rangers blanked for second straight game, trail Penguins, 2-1

New York Rangers left wing Benoit Pouliot skates

New York Rangers left wing Benoit Pouliot skates by as the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrate a goal by left wing Jussi Jokinen in the second period of 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

Maybe the Rangers need to stack their sticks and light a match. Or light a candle. Or find a voodoo doll of Marc-Andre Fleury and buy some pins. They seem bewitched.

In a game in which the Rangers did everything but score, they were burned by two plays -- breakaways by Sidney Crosby and Jussi Jokinen -- and stellar goaltending by Fleury, who made 35 saves in his second consecutive shutout.

With a 2-0 win Monday night at Madison Square Garden, the Penguins took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series, with Game 4 at the Garden Wednesday night.

Unless the Rangers can ignite their power play, which went 0-for-5 in Game 3 and is 0-for-the-last-34, their chances of advancing in this series will go up in smoke.

Before the Rangers played their fifth game in seven nights, coach Alain Vigneault challenged his top players to put on their "big-boy pants." But after the game, he bemoaned the fact that the team was "forced to play a stupid schedule . . . It's a challenge both physically and mentally, and I'm real proud of how we handled it. We're down by a game, but if we play the same way as we did tonight, I'm confident we will have a better outcome on Wednesday."

Martin St. Louis said the Rangers, who are off Tuesday, have "played a lot of hockey lately; we're going to come up for air and regroup for Game 4. Sometimes you need a bounce, and we didn't get it. I'm not worried."

Perhaps they should be. Fleury, who had 22 saves in Game 2 in Pittsburgh, was tested more severely in the second game of this back-to-back but continued to frustrate the Rangers. It was the first time the Rangers had been shut out in consecutive playoff games since the 1937 Stanley Cup Finals against the Detroit Red Wings.

Yes, three shots rang iron -- Benoit Pouliot and St. Louis hit posts and Mats Zuccarello hit a crossbar -- and some first-period deflections seemed to find Fleury's pads. But despite outshooting the Penguins 35-15, the Rangers haven't scored in 120 minutes and couldn't hit twine with 57 shots.

Vigneault had said he "hated" the team's play in the second periods of the first two games, and he couldn't have loved this one.

Robert Bortuzzo's pass sprung Crosby on a breakaway, and with Marc Staal in pursuit, he beat Henrik Lundqvist five-hole at 2:34 for his first goal in 13 playoff games and a 1-0 lead.

It came after the Rangers established the zone and created some long-sought movement in the second half of a double-minor on James Neal for high-sticking at 18:15 of the first.

The dagger came when the Rangers couldn't convert on their third man-advantage -- although it at least resembled an active power play with point man Raphael Diaz, one of three Rangers in the lineup who hadn't played in Game 2.

Jokinen, in the box for holding Derick Brassard's stick, busted out when a back pass from Zuccarello slid past Brad Richards, and he beat Lundqvist low to the stick side at 15:20.

Diaz, who had six shots, replaced John Moore, and rookies J.T. Miller and Jesper Fast were inserted into the lineup for Derek Dorsett and Dan Carcillo. But the fresh legs didn't result in any goals.

"We need to dig deep here,'' Lundqvist said. "This is definitely not over. We're playing well and creating chances.

"There are two plays where we have to be a little more aware," he said, referring to the goals. "At the same time, I have to try and stop the puck. Let's just take a day here to reload and get ready for a very big game."

New York Sports