Pittsburgh Penguins (+100) at New York Rangers (-110, 5 o/u)
Goaltending was supposed to be a big disadvantage for the Pittsburgh Penguins (48-26-8, 104 pts) in their best of seven series against Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers (46-27-9, 101 pts). But the Pens have gotten solid tending from a pair of playoff rookies and now hold a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4 tonight at Madison Square Garden (7:00 PM Eastern).
With starter Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion) and backup Matt Murray (knee) injured, Pittsburgh was forced to give Jeff Zatkoff his first playoff start in Game 1. The 28-year-old – who went just 4-7 with a 2.79 GAA in 14 regular season games – literally and figuratively saved the day, stopping 35 of 37 shots. His Pens emerged with a 5-2 win even though they were outshot 37-31.
Zatkoff came back to Earth in Game 2, letting in four goals on just 24 shots as the Rangers tied the series with a 4-2 win. That led to Pittsburgh giving a rejuvenated Murray the start in Game 3, and the rookie didn’t disappoint, leading the Penguins to a 3-1 win.
Of course, it helps that he only faced 17 shots in the game.
Murray will be back in net for Game 4.
Lundqvist hasn’t been the problem for the Blueshirts. He has an impeccable .931 save-percentage through three games. (Backup Antti Raanta let in three of the five goals in Game 1 after Lundqvist had to leave the game with an eye injury.) It’s the offense that’s let the team down. The Rangers are averaging just 2.33 goals per game and prized deadline acquisition Eric Staal has yet to register a point.
New York had a solid 27-10-4 record at home this year, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Pittsburgh has won all three of its visits to MSG this year and nine of the last ten. They also ended the regular season as the hottest team in the NHL, going 8-2 in their last ten.
Pick: Penguins (+100).
(Photo Credit: Dan4th Nicholas (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/].)