With each passing game, the New York Rangers are proving that they are a team to be reckoned with. The latest example -- and possibly indication for promising things to come -- was their 4-3 victory over NHL's best team at the quarter mark, the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was their third win in a row.
The game's final result may appear like this game was closer than it really was, but in reality the Rangers had control from the second period onward. The first period was a rough, tightly-contested 20 minutes that saw the Penguins score on the man advantage, but the fact of the matter is, the Blueshirts took three penalties in the first period and were very stingy on the kill. They outplayed the visitors five-on-five, but left the door open with the penalties they took, and James Neal capitalized with his 14th of the year.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this victory was that after the Rangers went down to a dominant team -- even more than formidable with Kris Letang and Zbynek Michalek out --they erupted for four-straight goals in the second period to take a commanding 4-0 lead.
New York took advantage of its first power play chance, on a brilliant play all over the ice, culminated with Marian Gaborik weaving his way through traffic and dishing it off to Ryan Callahan for the easy tap-in goal at the crease. John Mitchell extended the lead six minutes later, but it was all set up by the world-class speed of Carl Hagelin, who maneuvered his way into the zone, drew defenders to him, then dropped the pass behind him to Mitchell for the easy snipe glove-side past Marc-Andre Fluery. One minute later, Brad Richards, off some tough board work from Ruslan Fedotenko and Ryan Callahan, wristed a shot past Fleury. Gaborik finished off the scoring burst with another goal on the power play to give the Rangers a 4-1 lead.
The Penguins aren't one of the best in the league for no reason, however. They fought back, tacking on a goal from Evgeni Malkin seven seconds before the period concluded, and getting another one less than four minutes into the third to make it a bit of a nail-biter for the final 20 minutes. Altogether, though, the Rangers only permitted three shots in the period (had six themselves) and blocked many, many more as Pittsburgh had possession in the Rangers' zone often in the third period.
In a close game against one of the best teams in the entire NHL, you need your big stars to play like marquee players, and this one the Rangers' did. Gaborik had a goal and an assists, Richards had a three-point night and Callahan had a two-point night.
Henrik Lundqvist made 24 saves in the win, and won his seventh-straight decision. The Rangers also improved to 7-1-1 on home ice.