Lundqvist to lift Rangers past Penguins?

Lundqvist to lift Rangers past Penguins?

The Penguins’ most readily identifiable players remain powerhouse forwards such as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. If the goaltending keeps turning heads, though, perhaps Matt Murray elbows his way into the conversation.

Pittsburgh’s rookie stud added to his growing legacy by making 16 saves in the team’s 3-1 victory over the Rangers on Tuesday. He’ll be back between the pipes at 7 p.m. ET, with the Pens aiming to seize a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

Handicappers like Murray and company’s chances. Online sports book Bovada.lv gives the road squad odds of -120 to climb within one win of the second round, while New York represents a 1.5-goal underdog in its own building. The over/under total sits at five goals.

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The 21-year-old Murray didn’t exactly get the biggest Game 3 workload, but he returned from a head-related absence at the beginning of the series to reinforce the position about which Steel City fans fretted as recently as a few weeks ago. Pittsburgh has not suffered a drop-off since No. 1 netminder Marc-Andre Fleury went out with a concussion on March 31. In fact, Murray’s arguably elevated the standard in the crease. He won seven of his final eight starts during the regular campaign, then conquered Madison Square Garden.

Tonight, however, perhaps the youngster’s counterpart will teach him some lessons regarding sustained playoff excellence. The Rangers had better hope so, at least, if they aspire to make another extended run. Henrik Lundqvist consistently brings a Grade A-effort, as evidenced by that 1.52 GAA in the past 11 postseason clashes with the Penguins. The question boils down to whether the Blueshirts can muster any semblance of offense.

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Somewhat surprisingly, Mike Sullivan’s club boasts an undefeated record at MSG in 2015-16.The Pens also own nine triumphs in their last 10 games on the road overall. Still, we’re anticipating a mammoth showing from Lundqvist. He’s not ready to llet Murray upstage him under the bright lights two times in a row.

THURSDAY NHL FREE PICK: RANGERS +1.5

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