Mike Halford

Broadway flop: Rangers thumped by Pens at MSG, now on brink of elimination

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Maybe it was revenge, because the Rangers ended their season two years in a row.

Or maybe it’s just the better team exerting dominance.

Whatever the case, one thing is clear — the Penguins stamped their authority on their opening-round series on Thursday night, whipping the Rangers 5-0 at Madison Square Garden for a commanding three games to one lead.

Evgeni Malkin was the catalyst for Pittsburgh, with two goals and two assists, while Patric Hornqvist and captain Sidney Crosby chipped in with a pair of points each. Eric Fehr and Conor Sheary also scored.

For the Rangers — well, nobody did much of anything on a forgettable night.

The club’s anemic power play went scoreless again — it’s now 1-for-16 in the series — and the normally reliable Henrik Lundqvist couldn’t bail the club out, and was hooked after allowing goal No. 4 early in the second period.

It’s been a series with few positives for the Rangers thus far, and Thursday night only emphasized that.

The big guns that failed to fire through the first three games were silent again. Eric Staal and J.T. Miller are still without goals. The bottom-six forward group has given literally nothing in terms of offense.

These are tough times for the Rangers.

The Penguins, meanwhile, have to be thrilled with how the series has gone. They opened without the services of Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury — the No. 1 netminder is still out, which paved the way for Matt Murray to record his first-ever playoff shutout tonight — yet have won three of the first four games, and really found their offense.

Game 5 goes Saturday in Pittsburgh. If the Rangers can’t dramatically alter things, it’ll be the last of the series.

Killer finish: Killorn’s late winner bounces Detroit from playoffs

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The Detroit Red Wings did almost everything they could to extend the series tonight.

Everything, that is, but score a goal.

Alex Killorn did what the Red Wings couldn’t, tallying the lone marker with just 1:43 remaining to give Tampa Bay a 1-0 win on Thursday night, closing out the series four games to one.

Killorn’s goal, his third in five games, came on a gritty net-front effort in which he banged home a puck past Petr Mrazek. It ended what was a tight, compelling affair in which Detroit threw nearly everything it could at Ben Bishop.

It just couldn’t throw anything past him.

The rangy netminder was terrific on the night, especially on breakaways — he stopped Luke Glendening, Darren Helm and Dylan Larkin on separate occasions, and finished with a 33-save shutout.

It was a fitting ending for Bishop who, last year, beat the Red Wings in Game 7 of their opening-round series by stopped all 31 shots faced.

For Detroit, tonight’s game had to be frustrating, and that’s a theme that arose throughout the series. The Red Wings were a frustrated bunch during the opening two games of this series, in which they took an unusually high number of penalties while falling behind 0-2.

While the goaltending switch to Mrazek from Jimmy Howard provided a brief spark, it didn’t last long. Tampa Bay regained control of the series after dropping Game 3, and never really looked back.

Speaking of the Lightning, this series win spoke volumes about the club’s resiliency. Entering without the services of captain Steve Stamkos and key d-man Anton Stralman, many thought the injures would be too much for Tampa to overcome. But the club withstood another injury — to J.T. Brown, who was knocked out of the series early — to become the first team this spring to advance to Round 2.

As for Detroit, the focus will now quickly turn to the future of Pavel Datsyuk, who could have played his final game in a Red Wings uniform.

GM Fletcher ‘not on any hot seat’ with Wild owner

2012 NHL Entry Draft - Rounds 2-7
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Under-fire Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher will be back for another season.

That’s what Wild owner Craig Leipold said on Thursday, telling the Star-Tribune there’s “absolutely no way Chuck is not going to be here next year.”

“He is our guy,” Leipold added. “I continue to have a high level of confidence in Chuck and his staff and we’re already talking about next year.”

Leipold might have confidence in Fletcher, but there are those in Minnesota that don’t.

The Wild found themselves in a precarious position this year, fighting for a playoff spot after advancing to the second round in each of the last two seasons. The team isn’t young — Ryan Suter, Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek are all on the wrong side of 30 — and Fletcher’s twice fired coaches in the last five years: Todd Richards was dismissed in favor of Mike Yeo, and Yeo was sacked midway through this season in favor of current (and interim) bench boss John Torchetti.

The NHL’s seventh longest-tenured GM, Fletcher — to his credit — has made some nice moves over his seven years in charge. Acquiring Devan Dubnyk from Arizona all but saved the Wild last season, and his ability to land Parise and Suter during the summer of 2012 was a franchise-altering moment.

Looking ahead, though, it’ll be interesting to see how Fletcher alters what many see as an aging, expensive roster.

Pominville, who scored a career-low 11 goals this season, is pulling down $5.6M annually until 2019. The Suter and Parise contracts, which carry $7.5 million hits, run through 2025 (not a typo).

If Fletcher can integrate some of the club’s young draft prospects and win a trade or two — Matthew Dumba‘s name has come up as a potential chip on numerous occasions — he could turn this thing around.

It won’t be easy. But Fletcher, if nothing else, has the backing of his owner to get it sorted.

“Chuck knows he is not on any hot seat with me,” Leipold said. “So if there are rumors – and I haven’t seen them – then they aren’t something Chuck or anyone else should be worried about.”

Pens torch Lundqvist with three goals on first 12 shots (Update: And now he’s done)

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Not the start Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers were looking for on Thursday night.

To put it mildly.

The Rangers, already down 2-1 in their opening-round series to Pittsburgh, fell behind 3-0 in the first period of Game 4 thanks to tallies from Eric Fehr, Patric Hornqvist and Conor Sheary.

The goals against came early and often for Lundqvist.

He was beaten just 69 seconds into the contest by Fehr, then again six minutes later when Hornqvist connected on the power play — Pittsburgh’s fifth PPG of the series.

At the 16:12 mark, Sheary made it 3-0, converting a short-side shot after stealing the puck from Kevin Klein in Pittsburgh’s defensive zone.

The Pens nearly made it 4-0 moments after the Sheary goal, but Evgeni Malkin‘s would-be score was wiped out as Chris Kunitz was deemed to have interfered with Lundqvist.

But even with that disallowed goal, Pittsburgh still took major wind out of the Rangers’ sails in the opening 20 minutes — to the point where the MSG faithful booed the Blueshirts off the ice to end the period.

UPDATE: After Malkin scored to make it 4-0 just four minutes into the second, Lundqvist was parked in favor of Antti Raanta.

WATCH LIVE: Tonight’s Stanley Cup playoff action

Stanley Cup

Detroit at Tampa Bay (7:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 5 will be on NBCSN, with John Forslund and Brian Boucher on the call. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Pittsburgh at NY Rangers (7:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 4 will be on CNBC, with Chris Cuthbert and Pierre McGuire handling play-by-play and color duties. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Anaheim at Nashville (8:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 4 will be on NHL Network. John Ahlers and Brian Hayward have the call. There’s no live stream available for this game.

Chicago at St. Louis (9:30 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 5 will be on NBCSN, with Pat Foley and Ed Olczyk from the booth. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Some relevant linkage for tonight’s affair:

Reunited with Toews on Chicago’s top line, Kane hoping for some ‘instant chemistry’

Stalberg says he ‘hasn’t heard’ from Letang, who said yesterday that he apologized for high stick

‘Timely goal-scoring’ and ‘great goaltending’ have been the keys for St. Louis

Red Wings aiming for some ‘ugly ones’ on the power play