Henrik Lundqvist gets yanked early, Evgeni Malkin leads dominant Penguins to brink of series win

Evgeni Malkin had four points and the Penguins routed Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers 5-0 to take a 3-1 series lead.

For the second time in eight days, Henrik Lundqvist had his start come to an abrupt end. But unlike Game 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Rangers all-star goalie was yanked on Thursday due to performance.

Lundqvist’s Game 4 start lasted only 18 shots, and 26 minutes. He gave up four goals before he was pulled with the Rangers desperate for a boost. It didn’t work, and now the Rangers have to go to Pittsburgh for a must-win game on Saturday. The Penguins routed the Rangers 5-0 and head home with a 3-1 series lead.

The Penguins can thank Evgeni Malkin for much of their recent success. Any worry that he was rushed back from an upper-body injury too soon can be put to rest after his four-point night on Thursday. Malkin had two power-play goals and two assists to give him six points in three games. He missed the last 15 games of the regular season but has not shown any rust.

It’s hard to blame Lundqvist for the Rangers’ current state of affairs, as this game was all Penguins. They peppered Lundqvist from the beginning and Eric Fehr scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal just 69 seconds into the game.

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Lundqvist lasted only 20 minutes in Game 1 after being hit with a stick. There was concern that he would miss Game 2, but he played and was great, making 29 saves in a 4-2 Rangers win. But Madison Square Garden has not been kind to Lundqvist in the playoffs lately.

Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist both had two-point nights. The Penguins are now one win away from winning their first playoff series since 2014. The Pens were a trendy pick to make a run to the Stanley Cup final given their hot finish to the regular season, and dominant possession numbers. And now with Malkin back and hitting his stride, they’re looking better than ever.