April 14, 2016 / 3:33 AM / in 2 years

Zatkoff brilliant as Penguins beat Rangers

(The Sports Xchange) - Jeff Zatkoff stopped 35 shots in an unexpected and brilliant playoff debut, Patric Hornqvist frustrated New York at both ends of the ice while scoring three times and the Pittsburgh Penguins finally found a way to beat the Rangers in the post-season, winning 5-2 on Wednesday.

Apr 13, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff (37) makes a save against New York Rangers center Derek Stepan (21) during the first period in game one of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the CONSOL Energy Center. Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Hornqvist scored the game’s first goal before the Rangers pulled star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist with an eye injury, set up Sidney Crosby for a breakaway goal in the second, and added two more goals in the third as the Penguins defeated the team that eliminated them the last two postseasons.

Pittsburgh was the NHL’s hottest team down the stretch, winning 14 of 16, but that was with Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray in net.

Neither goaltender played as Zatkoff, the No. 3 goalie who played once since Feb. 20, started when Fleury (concussion) couldn’t go after taking part in the morning skate.

Zatkoff shut out the Rangers on 22 shots over the first two periods as Pittsburgh led 2-0.

He gave up a Derek Stepan goal on a 5-on-3 power play early in the third period and regrouped before rookie Tom Kuhnhackl scored short-handed to end what would have been a four-minute Rangers power play.

Stepan also scored twice -- getting his second slightly more than two minutes after Hornqvist scored his second -- on a power play, at 8:02 of the third.

Hornqvist later scored into an empty net, with Crosby picking up assists on Hornqvist’s third-period goals.

The third playoff series in as many seasons between the longtime rivals was supposed to feature the two winningest goalies in this post-season.

Fleury, though, wasn’t in uniform and Lundqvist -- brilliant while winning seven of his last eight against Pittsburgh in the playoffs -- was gone after one period.

The Rangers, no doubt motivated at not having to face Fleury and his 53 career wins, got off to a strong start, outshooting Pittsburgh 12-3 early on.

But Rangers defenseman Marc Staal’s stick unintentionally struck Lundqvist in his right eye with 49 seconds left in the first period.

Lundqvist stayed in after being treated, but Hornqvist scored only 31 seconds after play resumed. Conor Sheary shot the puck off the goalie’s right shoulder, and it deflected into the low slot to Hornqvist, who shot it between the goalie’s pads.

Antti Raanta, who was 11-6-2 during the season to Zatkoff’s 4-7-1, came on to allow Crosby’s goal on a breakaway set up by Hornqvist’s block of Dan Girardi’s shot and subsequent up-ice pass, Kuhnhackl’s first career goal and Hornqvist’s second and third of the game. He made 16 saves.

The Penguins clearly got a lift as Zatkoff stopped shot after shot during the Rangers’ early surge and again as the Penguins didn’t get a shot off against Raanta until 9:30 into the second period.

He twice stopped Mats Zuccarello during one New York surge, plus a Chris Kreider rebound attempt.

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