Malkin's 2 goals trigger seventh consecutive playoff victory
Evgeni Malkin, middle, celebrates with Georges Laraque, left, and Petr Sykora after Laraque's goal in the first period last night at Madison Square Garden. Malkin had an assist on the goal and also scored twice to help the Penguins take a 3-0 lead in the series.
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NEW YORK -- No one thought Ryan Hollweg could be a difference-maker in the New York Rangers' second-round playoff series against the Penguins.
Not his coaches. Not his teammates. Probably not even his mother.
Sidney Crosby? Sure. Jaromir Jagr? Absolutely. Evgeni Malkin? Of course. Scott Gomez? No doubt.
Ryan Hollweg, a grunt who logs less than six minutes of ice time per game? Hardly.
But no one -- including Malkin, who scored two goals and set up another -- had more of an impact on the outcome of the Penguins' 5-3 victory against the Rangers in Game 3 at Madison Square Garden last night than Hollweg.
And, by extension, on this series, which the Penguins now lead, 3-0, and can wrap up by winning Game 4 at 7:08 p.m. tomorrow at the Garden.
Winning Game 3 made the Penguins the first team to open the playoffs with seven victories since the Rangers in 1994, when New York ended a 54-year championship drought.
"We know right now that we have something going," right winger Marian Hossa said.
That might not have been the case without Hollweg's contribution.
For even as the Rangers, who had scored two goals in 64 seconds in the second period to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 3-3 tie, were subjecting Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to the kind of pressure that could transform a chunk of anthracite into a diamond overnight, Hollweg decided it was just the right time to drive Petr Sykora into the boards with a nasty hit from behind.
"It was a tough penalty to take," Rangers coach Tom Renney said.
Mostly because, three seconds before Hollweg's boarding minor was to expire, Malkin beat Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist from above the right dot to put the Penguins in front to stay.
"He took a penalty, and we scored a goal," Sykora said. "That became the winning goal, so you can say it was a turning [point]."
In the game, certainly, and likely in the series, since only two teams in NHL history have rebounded from 3-0 deficits to win a best-of-seven.
"It has been done," Renney said. "And we intend to duplicate that."
There is, to be sure, much the Rangers would like to repeat in Game 4. Outshooting the Penguins, 39-17, for starters, and limiting them to three power plays.
Trouble is, five of those 17 shots eluded Lundqvist, and the Penguins scored on two of their three chances with the extra man while New York's power play was 0 for 5, with failures that included two five-on-threes lasting a total of 74 seconds.
"We were lucky to win," Penguins right winger Georges Laraque said. "Fifteen shots on net, and five goals. That's not going to happen every time. We won because of the penalty killing."
It helped, of course, that the Penguins never had to play from behind.
Hossa gave them a 1-0 lead by throwing a Crosby rebound past Lundqvist 62 seconds after the opening faceoff and, after Martin Straka countered for New York at 14:28, Laraque and Malkin struck in a span of one minute, 24 seconds to give the Penguins a 3-1 lead at the intermission.
"We got a great start," coach Michel Therrien said. "Better than I was expecting."
Laraque stuck a shot over Lundqvist's right shoulder at 16:17 and, after Rangers right winger Ryan Callahan picked up a double-minor for high-sticking Penguins defenseman Hal Gill at 16:49, Malkin scored on a low slap shot from just inside the blue line at 17:41.
That gave the Penguins a power-play goal in seven consecutive playoff games, tying a franchise record set in 1989. A nice run, to be sure, but well short of the record of 16 Edmonton set in 1988.
Callahan (12:07) and Jagr (13:11) beat Fleury during the second period to turbo-charge a New York surge, but Hollweg short-circuited it with his hit on Sykora.
"[Sykora] is lucky he isn't hurt," said Ryan Malone, who added an insurance goal in the third. "But we're happy to go on the power play any chance we get. And it's nice when you make them pay for it like that."
The short-term price was a goal. The long-term cost: Any realistic chance New York had of winning the series. And the Penguins would like to snuff whatever improbable hopes they are nurturing tomorrow.
"When you come into a building like this and play a team like this, you try to win at least one game," Hossa said. "But when you get the first one, you try to be greedy."
First Published April 30, 2008 12:00 am