NEW YORK (AP) – Flashing his old brilliance, Evgeni Malkin scored two goals and set up two others and the Pittsburgh Penguins pushed the New York Rangers to the brink of playoff elimination with a 5-0 victory Thursday night.
Malkin, whose four points tied his single-game high in the postseason, assisted on two of the Penguins’ three first-period goals in helping Pittsburgh dominate the Rangers for the second consecutive game and take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven, first-round series.
Sidney Crosby, who added two assists, and the red-hot Penguins can wrap up things in Game 5 in Pittsburgh on Saturday.
Rookie goaltender Matt Murray, who returned to the lineup for Game 3, made 31 saves in posting his first playoff shutout.
Eric Fehr, Patric Hornqvist and Conor Sheary also scored as the Penguins tallied four times on 18 shots against Henrik Lundqvist, who was lifted early in the second period.
Pittsburgh converted 3 of 6 power plays, and is 7 of 19 in the series with the extra man.
The Rangers, who have lost five straight home playoffs games dating to last season, came into Game 4 vowing to pick things up after being totally outplayed in a 3-1 loss Tuesday night.
They brought tenor John Amirante out of retirement to sing the national anthem and the crowd at Madison Square Garden was buzzing when the puck was dropped.
The excitement disappeared 69 seconds into the game when Lundqvist gave up a juicy rebound on a slap shot by Ben Lovejoy and Fehr charged down the middle of the ice to poke the rebound into the net. Malkin made the pass that set up Lovejoy’s big shot.
The big Russian, who hurt an arm in early March and didn’t return to the lineup until Saturday, helped push the lead to 2-0 at 7:11 with a shot from the point on a power play. Crosby deflected the shot on the way in and Hornqvist tipped it again standing in front of Lundqvist for his fourth goal of the postseason.
Sheary hushed the crowd and made them start to realize this might be the final home game of the season, when he blocked a point shot by defenseman Kevin Klein, skated down the left wing and beat Lundqvist badly on a shot from the circle for a 3-0 lead at 16:12. It was his first NHL playoff goal.
By the final minute of the period time, the Penguins’ near perfect play had the Rangers’ fans booing the team that went to the Cup Finals two years ago and the Eastern Conference finals last season.
Malkin, who had a goal waved off late in the first period for an obvious goaltender interference call, stretched the lead to 4-0 with another power-play goal at 4:00 of the second period. It was scored with a rocket from the point after the Penguins refused to let the Rangers clear the puck out of the offensive zone.
A little more than two minutes after the goal, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault lifted Lundqvist after giving up four goals on 18 shots. Antti Raanta finished up.
Malkin added his second of the game and 44th of his postseason career on deflection in front in the third period with Pittsburgh on another power play.
The only thing remaining after that was to see if Murray got his shutout, and the Penguins made sure he did.
The Rangers had some scoring chances. Murray stopped Eric Staal on a rebound late in the first period and Chris Kreider missed the net after being set up in close.