on May 1, 2008 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

Penguins edge closer to series victory over Rangers

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Pittsburgh Penguins capitalized on two powerplay goals from Evgeni Malkin to overcome the New York Rangers 5-3 on Tuesday and take a commanding 3-0 lead in their Eastern Conference semi-finals series.

The Rangers, who lost the first two games of the best-of-seven series in Pittsburgh, failed to score on six powerplay opportunities and will be swept out of the playoffs if they lose Game Four at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.

Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made 36 saves to secure a 15th victory in his last 17 starts.

“The penalty kill and Marc were incredible tonight,” Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby told CBC Sports after his two assist performance.

“They’re bending but they’re not breaking,” Rangers head coach Tom Renney said of the Penguins.

“We appreciate that but we’re going to keep coming at them.”

In the Western Conference semi-final, the Dallas Stars beat the San Jose Sharks 2-1 in overtime to open a 3-0 lead in their best-of-seven series.

Mattias Norstrom scored at 4:37 into the extra session to put the Sharks on the verge of elimination from the playoffs. Game four is in Dallas Wednesday.

Marty Turco made 19 saves in goal for the Stars, who are looking for a second straight upset after eliminating last year’s Stanley Cup winners the Anaheim Ducks in six games.

In Denver, the Detroit Red Wings also moved to within one win of advancing to the Western Conference finals with a 4-3 victory over the Colorado Avalanche.

Pavel Datsyuk scored twice for the Wings, who lead the best-of-seven series 3-0 and can advance to the West finals with a Game Four triumph in Denver on Thursday.

Chris Osgood made 30 saves for the Wings, while Andrew Brunette scored a pair of goals for Colorado.

In New York, Pittsburgh forward Marian Hossa took the wind out of the home team’s sails early, scoring from a tight angle after just one minute when goaltender Henrik Lundqvist failed to hold a shot by Pascal Dupuis.

New York tied the scores in the 15th minute, however, when Martin Straka poked the puck past Fleury during a scramble in which the goal was knocked off its moorings.

The goal was only given after a lengthy video review.

Physical right winger Georges Laraque put the Penguins ahead with a forehand shot from the slot.

He was only on the ice because winger Ryan Malone was serving a roughing penalty along with two other Penguins and three Rangers following a melee after the New York goal.

When New York’s Ryan Callahan was given a four-minute penalty for high-sticking Hal Gill less than a minute later, Malkin scored the first of his brace with a slapshot.

The Rangers rallied to 3-3 in the second period, with goals by Ryan Callahan and captain Jaromir Jagr, who won two Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh early in his career.

But Malkin’s second goal, another booming slapshot, put the visitors ahead while New York’s Ryan Hollweg was serving a penalty for boarding.

Malone tipped in a Kris Letang shot early in the third period and for the rest of the game Fleury shut the door on the Rangers, who had 39 shots to the Penguins’ 17.

The Penguins have won all seven playoff games this season after sweeping the Ottawa Senators 4-0 in the first round.

The last team to win its first seven playoff games was New York, who went on to win the Stanley Cup in 1994.

The Rangers, who beat the New Jersey Devils in the opening round, have never beaten Pittsburgh in three previous playoff meetings.

(Writing by Roger Lajoie in Toronto; Editing by John O’Brien)