3 Keys: Rangers at Penguins, Game 4 of Eastern First Round

(2M) Rangers at (3M) Penguins

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Pittsburgh leads best-of-7 series 2-1

The Pittsburgh Penguins will try to build on a wild win in Game 3 on Saturday when they play Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the New York Rangers at PPG Paints Arena on Monday.

The Penguins led 4-1 after the first period, allowed the Rangers to tie it with three goals in the second, then scored three goals in the third for a 7-4 win to take the series lead.

But that’s yesterday’s news to them.

“We’ve got to get excited about the opportunity we have in front of us tonight,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “We’ve got to hit the reset button. This is a new game, we’ve got to be ready to play. It all starts with a mindset and an attitude.”

[RELATED: Complete Rangers vs Penguins series coverage]

The Rangers will go back to goalie Igor Shesterkin to start Game 4. He was pulled after allowing four goals on 15 shots in the first period. Alexander Georgiev replaced him and made 19 saves on 20 shots.

Shesterkin led the NHL with a 2.07 goals-against average and .935 save percentage during the regular season (minimum 10 games). He allowed six goals on 124 shots in Games 1 and 2 (.952 save percentage).

Through his NHL career, Shesterkin is 6-1-1 with a 2.61 GAA and .922 save percentage in eight games following a game in which he was pulled. He was 13-2-1 with a 2.07 GAA, .933 save percentage and three shutouts in 16 games following a loss this season.

“Get back on the net, that’s all he wants,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “Get back on the net and play a good game. I’m not worried about Igor one bit.”

Teams that take a 3-1 lead hold an all-time series record of 296-30 (90.8 percent) in a best-of-7 NHL playoff series, including 5-1 in the 2021 playoffs.

Here are 3 keys for Game 4:

1. Rangers need better start

The Rangers are still lamenting their start in Game 3, when the Penguins took a 4-1 lead.

“Like we were sleeping all period,” forward Kaapo Kakko said.

It’s possible there were some nerves considering it was the first road playoff game for 10 of the 20 players in New York’s lineup for Game 3, including Shesterkin. But they have some experience now and should know what to expect, so a better start is necessary.

“Everybody that comes out with a noisy crowd behind you has a lot of energy,” Gallant said. “I want to slow them down by us playing fast.”

2. Pittsburgh’s first power-play unit has to power up

The Penguins’ first power-play unit has had a rough series so far. The five-man group of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust and Kris Letang has been on the ice for two shorthanded goals against and hasn’t generated anything on the other end.

Pittsburgh’s second unit picked up the slack in Game 3, with forwards Jeff Carter and Evan Rodrigues scoring in the first period. But the Penguins will keep going back to their talented first unit, so they have to figure it out.

“This is a collective effort from both the players and the coaches and we’re doing everything we can to help these guys, but we believe in them,” Sullivan said. “They’re talented players and we believe that they’ll get it together and execute. When they do, they’re certainly going to help us have success.”

3. Force Crosby to go the distance

The Rangers did a better job defending against Crosby and his linemates, Guentzel and Rust, in Game 3 than they did in Games 1 and 2. That line did not have a point until Guentzel scored an empty-net goal off a pass from Crosby at 17:46 of the third period.

However, Crosby, Guentzel and Rust started to control the puck in the offensive zone, particularly below the goal line, after Danton Heinen scored to give Pittsburgh a 5-4 lead at 11:02 of the third period.

Forcing them to play in the defensive zone, or at least have to take the puck the length of the ice, will be a focus of the Rangers in Game 4.

Rangers projected lineup

Chris KreiderMika ZibanejadFrank Vatrano

Artemi PanarinRyan StromeAndrew Copp

Alexis LafreniereFilip Chytil – Kaapo Kakko

Dryden HuntKevin RooneyRyan Reaves

K’Andre MillerJacob Trouba

Justin BraunAdam Fox

Patrik NemethBraden Schneider

Igor Shesterkin

Alexandar Georgiev

Scratched: Libor Hajek, Greg McKegg, Julien Gauthier, Jonny Brodzinski

Injured: Tyler Motte (upper body), Barclay Goodrow (lower body), Ryan Lindgren (lower body)

Penguins projected lineup

Jake Guentzel – Sidney Crosby – Bryan Rust

Danton Heinen – Evgeni Malkin – Kasperi Kapanen

Jason Zucker – Jeff Carter – Brock McGinn

Brian BoyleTeddy Blueger – Evan Rodrigues

Mike Matheson – Kris Letang

Marcus PetterssonJohn Marino

Mark FriedmanChad Ruhwedel

Louis Domingue

Alex D’Orio

Scratched: Nathan Beaulieu, Drew O’Connor

Injured: Tristan Jarry (lower body), Rickard Rakell (undisclosed), Brian Dumoulin (lower body)

Status report

Lindgren will be a game-time decision, Gallant said. The defenseman skated on a fourth defense pair with Hajek during the morning skate. Gallant said New York could use seven defensemen and 11 forwards if Lindgren plays. … Gallant said it was possible the Rangers would have one other lineup change but he would not disclose what it could be. Ar Jarry skated on his own for about 45 minutes before morning skate, facing shots for the first time. The goalie has not played since April 14.… Rakell wore a no-contact jersey in his first morning skate since being injured in Game 1. The forward will not play, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.

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