(The Sports Xchange) - J.T. Miller set up three New York goals in slightly more than four minutes of the second period that unnerved the Penguins and their backup goaltender and the Rangers tied up the first-round playoff series, winning 4-2 in Pittsburgh on Saturday.
The Rangers looked nothing like the team that was dominated 5-2 in Game One — and Pittsburgh’s Jeff Zatkoff finally looked like a No. 3 goaltender, as Derick Brassard beat him for a goal and assisted on two others.
With the steady Henrik Lundqvist back in net after missing the final two periods — and four Penguins goals — in Game One with an injured right eye, the Rangers scored four consecutive goals to seize back home-ice advantage from the rival they eliminated from the postseason the previous two seasons.
Despite Phil Kessel’s first two playoff goals since 2013, the Rangers also ended their four-game losing streak against the Penguins that dated to the regular season and now go back to Madison Square Garden with confidence intact for Game Three on Tuesday.
Early on, it looked like a repeat of Game One, as Pittsburgh outshot the Rangers 17-8 and led 1-0 on Kessel’s first goal. Zatkoff also looked as steady and unshaken as he did while making 35 saves Wednesday as a surprise starter for the injured Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion).
But that all changed in 18 seconds, as the Rangers swung the game, the lead — and, they hope, the series — their way, thanks largely to center Miller’s playmaking and Brassard’s two-way play.
Brassard won a faceoff in the Penguins’ end, allowing Miller to throw a perfectly placed pass to a wide-open Keith Yandle in the left circle for a wrist shot that knuckleballed over Zatkoff’s right shoulder and under the crossbar at 12:38.
The Penguins, who had won 15 of their previous 17, then sat back as Miller made a long-distance breakout pass to their own blue line to Brassard, who got a stride ahead of defenseman Olli Maatta for a wrist shot that eluded Zatkoff only 18 seconds after Yandle scored. The goal was reviewed to determine if Brassard was onside.
All of a sudden, the Rangers were playing exactly like the team that had won seven of their previous eight in the postseason from Pittsburgh in 2014 and 2015.
Lundqvist, looking sharp and not the least bit bothered by the eye injury that forced him out of Game One, made 29 saves.
Editing by Andrew Both