It had the makings of being an ugly one for the New York Rangers: back-to-back games against two of the better teams in the Eastern Conference, a timeout by coach John Tortorella after a goal at 5:43 of the first, a 38-21 shot disadvantage (11 -1 at one point in the first 20 minutes). But that's why the Rangers employ arguably the best goaltender in all of hockey.
Buoyed by his opportunistic teammates, Henrik Lundqvist backstopped the Blueshirts to a 3-1 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road, their fourth win in a row and ninth in ten games. The nickname King was apropos for Lundqvist, who was given the celebratory hat and whose performance was described as "unbelievable" by a coach who doesn't normally lap praise upon his players to the media. The Swede's 37-save night gives him an 18-7-4 record on the year with an astounding 1.89 goals-against average and .939 save percentage.
The Rangers have 56 points, which puts them three points ahead of the Boston Bruins (who have played two fewer games) and Vancouver Canucks for the NHL's highest point total and best record. This was yet another win that proved New York has the ability to find ways to get two points.
Ben Lovejoy potted the first goal of the game in a first period in which New York looked lost, couldn't control the puck and relied on their stud netminder to bail them out. The Rangers were better after the timeout, but throughout the game -- as seen by the shot advantage for Pittsburgh -- they needed Lundqvist to keep them in it ... and ultimately preserve the win.
The Rangers tied the game up with less than two minutes remaining in the period when Ryan McDonagh took the offensive-zone faceoff win toward the left corner, threw an off-angle shot toward the net, which was deflected slightly by Brandon Dubinsky off Marc-Andre Fleury and cleaned up by Brad Richards at the far post for his 15th of the year.
Even though the Rangers settled in after the first, the shot advantage never disappeared (13-8 in the second, 14-6 in the third), and the Penguins did have the puck considerably longer. The Rangers' defense was pretty sound from the first point forward -- with the inevitable bumps along the way covered up by Lundqvist -- limiting Evgeni Malkin to only one shot and a minus-two rating. Besides the contribution on the first goal, McDonagh was stellar on defense (physical and positionally sound) and also jumped up the ice for a few offensive chances as well.
Brandon Dubinsky would score shorthanded at 3:09 of the second period on a two-on-one with Ryan Callahan and the game never really seemed all that close because of how locked in Lundqvist was. It was essentially put out of reach 1:20 into the third period when Fleury fanned on the puck as it came into the zone. Marian Gaborik forced the unsteady play by hustling down the ice, but his backhander hit the post, ultimately to be picked up by Derek Stepan for the goal.