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Rangers, Lundqvist handle Penguins at MSG

by Tal Pinchevsky
NEW YORK -- Henrik Lundqvist's goaltending enabled the New York Rangers to weather an early blitz by the Pittsburgh Penguins. His teammates took it from there.

Lundqvist stopped Sidney Crosby 20 seconds into the game and held the Penguins at bay before Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan scored 65 seconds apart late in the first period to power the Rangers to a 5-1 victory Wednesday night.

Lundqvist made 12 of his 28 saves in the opening period before the goals by McDonagh and Stepan. Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan and Derick Brassard also scored for New York; Kris Letang had Pittsburgh's goal and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 20 shots.

The Penguins came out flying from the opening faceoff. On the game's first shift, Crosby raced down the right wing, cut in past McDonagh and forced Lundqvist to make a sprawling save.

"Off their first shift, they got a great scoring chance. Crosby is a great player; [he] beat a pretty good defenseman with a solid move," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "But Hank did what he is supposed to do, he stopped the puck."

Lundqvist was tested again after John Moore drew an interference penalty at 5:27, denying Chris Kunitz from in front with a kick save and getting a piece of Paul Martin's shot from the left circle. But Lundqvist saved his most acrobatic move for Crosby midway through the power play after a flurry of Penguins passes ended with Kunitz finding the Penguins' captain alone at the side of the net. Lundqvist closed off the bottom of the open net with his outstretched left pad, forcing Crosby to miss just wide.

"That's really big. He seems to do that every night for us. That one he made on Crosby on the post, that's a huge save," Callahan said. "They got an early power play and he made some big saves. That's what he does."

Lundqvist's goaltending had a calming effect on the Rangers, who tightened up defensively as the period progressed. As New York gained confidence, its aggressive forecheck began to generate some offense.

New York opened the scoring when Boyle lunged to feed McDonagh from behind the Penguins net. McDonagh got just enough of the bouncing puck to shoot it past Fleury's blocker with 1:52 remaining in the period.

Stepan made it 2-0 with 47 seconds left. Mats Zuccarello dumped the puck toward the right corner and Stepan raced past Matt Niskanen to grab it before beating Fleury wide to the right side for his fourth goal in three games.

"It's a pretty good backspin by Zuc," Stepan said. "Anytime you score a goal late in a period it helps. Our line went out there making sure we play a smart last shift. We took advantage of our opportunity."

The Rangers killed off another Pittsburgh power play after Carl Hagelin was sent off for hooking 1:07 into the second period, limiting the Penguins to one shot. A tripping penalty to Dan Girardi midway through the period yielded two shots on goal, neither of which tested Lundqvist severely.

"On that first power play, they made it tough on us. But after that I thought we settled down and did what they had to do in taking lanes and blocking shots," Vigneault said. "They didn't get a lot. Then they made a couple of mistakes and we made them pay."

The Rangers made Pittsburgh pay for its power-play struggles 25 seconds after Girardi came out of the box. Brad Richards raced down the right wing and fed a streaking Boyle down the middle. Boyle fired past Fleury's blocker at 13:10 for his first goal of the season.

"Always," Boyle said when asked why he shot to the blocker side. "That's where all my goals go."

Pittsburgh finally capitalized on a power play to get on the scoreboard with 5:26 left in the period and Benoit Pouliot off for closing his hand on the puck when Letang beat a diving Lundqvist to a loose puck during a scramble and scored to make it 3-1. But any Pittsburgh momentum was dashed 64 seconds later when Hagelin spun around at the point and fired a shot that was tipped by Richards and again by Callahan, who was credited with his fourth goal of the season on the deflection that went past Fleury's glove.

"I'm just trying to tip it," Callahan said. "Richie gets a piece of it, I get a piece of it. It goes on. No real science behind it."

From that point on, New York's defense went from stifling to downright suffocating. Pittsburgh was held without a shot on goal for the first 13:56 of the third period.

"I think after the first 10 minutes, several turnovers in the neutral zone led to opportunities to score," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "They got up two and we got sloppy after that. Sloppy with the puck, sloppy in D-zone coverage. They had more opportunities and they scored."

The last of those opportunities came when Brassard put the game out of reach 9:57 into the third. Derek Dorsett's shot was blocked before reaching Fleury, but Brassard pounced at the right side of the net to beat Fleury and a Penguins defense that appeared to lose sight of the loose puck.

The Penguins (11-5-0) visit the St. Louis Blues on Saturday while the Rangers (7-8-0) visit the Columbus Blue Jackets, a Metropolitan Division rival, on Thursday.

"It's a big game for us," Lundqvist said. "It was important for us to step up and we played against one of the best teams in the League."
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