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Rangers get well by blanking Penguins

by Brian Hunter / NHL.com
Apparently the remedy for the struggling New York Rangers was a visit from a team with even greater problems.

Four different Rangers had a goal and an assist, and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 shots for his first shutout of the season in a 4-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday at Madison Square Garden.

Nigel Dawes and Paul Mara scored on the power play, Chris Drury had an even-strength goal and Scott Gomez added a shorthanded empty-netter in the final minutes as New York vaulted back into first place in the Atlantic Division.

Lundqvist missed the Rangers' last game in Washington with flu-like symptoms and their loss to the Capitals was their fourth in five games. Lundqvist had been 1-2-1 with a 4.01 goals-against average in his previous four starts, but bounced back to become only the fifth goalie in NHL history to record at least 20 wins in each of his first four seasons.

"We've gone through a stretch here where it's been a lot of up and downs, and our consistency hasn't been great," Lundqvist said. "But when you look around the League, all the teams go through stretches where you have to work really hard for your wins."

The Penguins find themselves in a stretch where nothing seems to be going right. They lost their fifth straight for the first time since December 2006 and remained ninth in the Eastern Conference after going to the Stanley Cup Final last season.

"I don't think you ever expect not to score," captain Sidney Crosby said. "Was it lack of effort? No. It happens in hockey sometimes. You run into tough nights, and we're there right now. We've got to find a way to put it in."

An early series of power plays set the tone for the game. The Rangers went up a man 31 seconds in when Maxime Talbot was called for boarding, and Nigel Dawes put a shot from the left circle past Marc-Andre Fleury at the one-minute mark. The puck hit the shaft of defenseman Rob Scuderi's stick before squeezing between Fleury's pads.

Then the Penguins were given a golden opportunity to at least draw even. First, Petr Prucha was assessed a double minor for high-sticking at 3:27, and Dmitri Kalinin followed him to the box 56 seconds later on a holding penalty. But the Rangers killed off 1:59 of the 5-on-3 disadvantage before Jordan Staal's interference penalty at 6:22 wiped out the final second and left the teams at even strength after Kalinin's minor expired.

"The 5-on-3 was huge," Staal said. "We needed to score on that one."

It took the Rangers all of two seconds to capitalize after Matt Cooke was sent off for interference late in the second. Gomez won an offensive-zone draw cleanly back to Mara, who ripped a drive from the high slot for a 2-0 lead with 2:33 left.

Drury scored off a Prucha feed with 7:30 remaining in the third and Gomez added a final tally after the Penguins went on the power play with 4:52 left and pulled Fleury about a minute later to create a 6-on-4 advantage. Drury fired the puck down the ice and missed the net, but Gomez collected and shot it into the empty cage with 3:11 to play.

"Every time we play them we get excited for it. We want to shut them down like we did," Mara said of the Penguins. "If we play like we did tonight, penalty kill, power play, 5-on-5, we should get our fair share of wins here in the second half."

The Penguins went 0-for-8 on the power play and have failed on their last 32 chances with the man advantage over six games.

"The 5-on-3 kill was huge for us," Lundqvist said. "And it's about time I got a shutout -- it's been too long."

Lundqvist recorded 10 shutouts last season and secured this one with a big save off Evgeni Malkin during a 2-on-0 rush with Petr Sykora. Malkin's rising shot was turned away by Lundqvist with his left shoulder, and he later denied Crosby on the doorstep, causing him to smack his stick against the glass in frustration.

 
 
The Garden faithful had their usual fun with Crosby, booing him lustily throughout, and he took a pair of penalties -- including one for interference just two seconds into a Penguins power play -- a game after being involved in his second NHL fight and picking up 21 penalty minutes against Florida.

"Whether the opposing fans are trying to rub it in or not, losing is not fun," Crosby said. "I wouldn't expect anything different here, to be honest."

Oilers 3, Islanders 2 | VIDEO

The number 13 turned out to be an unlucky one for the Islanders, as they let a two-goal lead slip away and lost their 13th consecutive road game on Andrew Cogliano's goal midway through the third period.

Kyle Brodziak and Jason Strudwick scored in the second for the Oilers to erase a 2-0 deficit the Isles had built on goals in the first by Kyle Okposo and Blake Comeau. They haven't won away from Nassau Coliseum since a Nov. 24 shootout over Montreal and are two losses shy of the franchise record of 15, set Jan. 20-Apr. 1, 1973.

Edmonton, meanwhile, has opened a stretch of five straight games at Rexall Place with a pair of victories to move into a tie with Minnesota for eighth in the Western Conference. Dwayne Roloson made 25 saves as the Oilers built on a 4-1 win over Dallas on Saturday. They face Vancouver on Wednesday in what could be Mats Sundin's debut for the Canucks.

Cogliano's 12th of the season came 9:58 into the third, as he cleaned up on a loose puck after Marc Pouliot's shot landed in front of the net.
   
"We just couldn't lose this game," Cogliano said. "When a team comes in the way they did, you have to win it.

"It was a big win for us and a confidence boost going into our next game against the Canucks which I feel is one of our biggest games of the season. Some mental errors set us back at the beginning, but we found a way to get through it."
   
The Islanders, who played mostly from behind in losses at Phoenix and San Jose, got on the board first Monday as Okposo put a shot past Roloson 4:02 into the game and Comeau added a power-play tally with just 2.5 seconds left in the first.

"That was a winnable game and it slipped away from us," Islanders captain Bill Guerin said. "Give them credit, they hung in there too. It was one of those games where whoever's going to stick around longest and not break, and catch a break is going to win and that's what happened."

"We just couldn't lose this game.  When a team comes in the way they did, you have to win it." -- Andrew Cogliano






The bounces started to Edmonton's way in the second, as the fourth line got involved in the offense. Brodziak made it a 2-1 game at 10:50 when his shot from the corner deflected off the skate of Brendan Witt and past goaltender Joey MacDonald.

A little over three minutes later, Zack Stortini sent a pass from the behind the net and it ricocheted in off the skate of Strudwick, a converted defenseman who hadn't scored since last season while a member of the Rangers. The goal was reviewed, but stood when there was no conclusive evidence that Strudwick used his skate to intentionally direct the puck.

"That first goal was an innocent play, went through the crease and off a skate and into the net and then the second goal was the same thing, off another skate," said MacDonald, who finished with 23 saves. "Just two unlucky bounces for us. You take them out of it and it's a win for us. Hopefully in the next game or so, we can start getting some bounces like that."

Oilers coach Craig MacTavish praised the play of his fourth line in rallying the troops.

"They played a really simple game and got a lot done tonight," he said. "It was a good lesson for everyone. It doesn't have to be pretty all of the time. They did a great job to help us come back and win the game. They typify what a fourth line should be."

Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.


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