NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers might be the only team in the Eastern Conference that genuinely looks forward to playing the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Why wouldn't they at this point? The Rangers proved once again Tuesday that the Penguins bring out the best in them.
New York snapped a two-game losing streak with a dominant performance against Pittsburgh in a 5-0 victory at Madison Square Garden.
Mats Zuccarello, Martin St. Louis and Kevin Klein scored in the first period to give New York a 3-0 lead. Derick Brassard scored a power-play goal at 10:49 of the second to make it 4-0, and Rick Nash scored his NHL-leading 12th goal at 7:45 of the third with the Rangers playing shorthanded.
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist made 33 saves for his third shutout of the season and third in 52 career appearances against Pittsburgh. Derek Stepan, Marc Staal and Nash had two assists.
It was a complete turnaround in terms of effort and result for the Rangers after their performances this past weekend, when they lost 5-4 at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday and 3-1 at home against the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday.
"We had energy. We had jump," Staal said. "It felt like everyone was a lot more fresh and lines were flowing a lot better. We had a lot more attention to our backcheck in our own end, filling the middle of the ice.
"We wanted to respond. We weren't obviously happy with the weekend. We know what kind of team we are."
The game also saw a change of fortunes for the Penguins, who had won seven in a row, allowing eight goals, and had killed off 37 consecutive power plays coming into the game. New York erased both streaks in defeating Pittsburgh for the fourth consecutive time dating back to Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Second Round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Pittsburgh had a 3-1 lead in the series before the Rangers rallied to win Games 5, 6 and 7. New York went on to reach the Stanley Cup Final; the Penguins fired their coach (Dan Bylsma) and general manager (Ray Shero).
The Rangers and Penguins play again Saturday at Consol Energy Center.
"I think it was preparation," Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. "It's from the coaches to the players. We had to be a lot better prepared in the first 10 minutes than we were. I thought the second part of it was our response. Once we saw the level they were coming out with and how they were playing we had to respond, and I think it took us just way too long to respond."
Zuccarello, St. Louis and Klein scored 6:24 apart to give New York a 3-0 lead at 14:47 of the first period. Defensive-zone turnovers by the Penguins led to each of the three goals, but they were turnovers forced by aggressive pressure from the Rangers.
"It's how we want to play every single night," Rangers center Derek Stepan said. "You have to pressure guys and create turnovers, because it's too hard to make tic-tac-toe plays every single night. You have to find ways to crate turnovers, and that's when you get them a little bit scrambly and that's when you can score goals."
Johnston admitted the pressure from the Rangers was problematic for the Penguins, but he also blamed his players for not competing hard enough on loose pucks.
"You have to engage when you're going for those loose pucks, and I didn't think we had the same level of intensity that we've normally had," Johnston said.
Brassard's goal, which gave New York a 4-0 lead, was the first power-play goal the Penguins allowed since Oct. 16, when Tyler Seguin scored with 2.9 seconds remaining in regulation to lift the Dallas Stars to a 3-2 win.
Pittsburgh extended its penalty-kill streak to 39 before Brassard beat Fleury with a hard wrist shot from the left circle that went over Fleury's glove and into the top-right corner of the net.
Brassard said the Rangers were made aware of the Penguins' PK streak in their power-play meetings earlier in the day.
"We were really well prepared," he said. "Every day we have power-play meetings with [assistant coach Scott Arniel] and we know every stat, everything they do. We know everything."
Not only did the Rangers solve the Penguins penalty kill, they stymied Pittsburgh's League-best power play. The Penguins, who entered the game with a power play clicking at 37.5 percent, were 0-for-3 and allowed Nash's shorthanded goal.
It was Nash's goal, which put the Rangers up 5-0, that finally allowed Lundqvist to feel like the lead was safe and the game was in hand. He was worried about the Penguins’ quick-strike ability.
"Against this team, I didn't feel safe after 4-0 to be honest with you," Lundqvist said. "You never know, they can turn things around so fast, especially if they start getting their power play out there. We kept talking about making good decisions throughout the game."
They did, but it was a quick decision from forward Tanner Glass that sparked the Rangers early in the game.
Pittsburgh was inches away from taking a 1-0 lead 58 seconds before Zuccarello scored the first New York goal when Spaling's shot from above the left circle squeezed through Lundqvist. Glass came back, reached out his stick and cleared the puck off the goal line.
"Oh yeah, that was a game changer," Brassard said. "The coaches are always on us to come back and help out, and he didn't quit on the play. He got that puck. If they score that goal, it's 1-0 for them and it's a totally different game. That was a big play."
The first of many on a big night for the Rangers, who have to avoid looking forward to playing Pittsburgh again Saturday because the Colorado Avalanche come to Madison Square Garden on Thursday fresh off a 6-0 loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday.
"Now we've gotta find that type of emotion and intensity in every game that we play," Staal said. "We've got to try to find that consistency."