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.