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Cullen: Penguins take control; notes on Malkin, Crosby, Nash

Scott Cullen
5/8/2014 12:02:12 AM
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The Pittsburgh Penguins have taken control of their series with the New York Rangers, winning Game Four to push the Blueshirts to the brink. Notes on Crosby, Malkin, Nash and more.

RANGERS REELING

The Pittsburgh Penguins have been having their way with the New York Rangers and it continued in Game Four, with Pittsburgh winning 4-2 to take a 3-1 lead in the series.

Through the first four games of this series, the Penguins have controlled play to a surprising degree, considering that the Rangers were a superior possession team during the regular season. In 5-on-5 score close situations against the Rangers, the Penguins are getting 59.5% of the shot attempts against the Rangers. It's hard enough to get the better of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but if their team is dominating the puck, the hill gets awfully steep in a hurry.

In Game Four, Crosby and Malkin, playing together, toyed with the Rangers, controlling better than 78% of the 5-on-5 shot attempts. Crosby contributed a couple of assists and Malkin had a goal and an assist to increase his team-leading playoff point total to 12 points in 10 games. Malkin only had three shots on goal, but had 13 attempts (six missed the net, four blocked). LW Chris Kunitz and defencemen Kris Letang and Paul Martin were also over 70% in terms of shot attempts.

With Penguins D Brooks Orpik leaving after only 5:15 of ice time, Martin (30:05 TOI) and Letang (27:56 TOI) both logged heavy minutes.

The mirror image, for the Rangers, is that Martin St. Louis, Carl Hagelin (who scored the Rangers' first goal) and Brad Richards were getting worked, all on for 25% or less of the shot attempts.

The Rangers had LW Chris Kreider in the lineup for the first time since March 24. He played 15:24 and was one of two Rangers to at least break even on shot attempts.

The other Ranger with better than 50% Corsi in the game was the much-maligned Rick Nash, who led the Rangers with four shots on goal (and six attempts) but, for the eighth straight game, he was held without a point and has been a target for boos from the MSG faithful. That's not unreasoanble, Nash has one goal in 23 playoff games with the Rangers over the past two seasons, yet over the past two regular seasons, he's scored 47 goals in 109 games -- his 0.43 goals per game in that span ranks 13th, between Joe Pavelski and Marian Hossa. Expectations are higher and the fact that the Rangers are unable to score, managing five goals in four games against Marc-Andre Fleury (not exactly the paragon of playoff goaltending in recent seasons), only serves to highlight Nash's playoff drought.

It should go without saying that Nash generating as many shots as he is (a playoff-leading 45, with zero goals!) makes it likely that he will resume scoring soon but, for the Rangers' sake, with time running out, it may not be soon enough.

Fatigue, and a compacted schedule have been commonly cited reasons for the Rangers' poor play in this series. Whatever the excuse might be, they are left without wiggle room now. They need to win three straight against the Penguins or they will have plenty of time to rest very soon.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.




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