Marc-Andre Fleury turned aside 36 shots in another strong start Tuesday night and the Pittsburgh Penguins won their third in a row by handing the Rangers their second successive 1-0 loss.
It marked the first time in the long history of the Original Six franchise that the Rangers absorbed back-to-back 1-0 defeats, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Evgeni Malkin scored the only goal on a power play early in the second period to ruin a good night by Henrik Lundqvist, who made a succession of excellent saves while stopping 21 shots. The biggest save came on Jordan Staal’s penalty shot less than a minute after Malkin scored.
The only way for Lundqvist to win these days is by shutout, and even that isn’t a guaranteed win. Despite having one of the NHL’s top collection of scorers – they added Scott Gomez and Chris Drury in megadollar off-season deals – the Rangers have only 13 goals in eight games.
The Rangers were coming off a 1-0 shootout loss Saturday to Boston and have gone 181 minutes, nine seconds without scoring an even-strength goal, or since Jaromir Jagr got his only goal of the season late in a 3-1 loss to Ottawa on Oct. 13. All the Rangers’ goals in a 5-3 loss to Atlanta on Oct. 18 were on the power play.
New York picked an inopportune time to go against Fleury, who shook off an up-and-down start to make 30 saves in a 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Saturday night. Fleury has stopped 66 of 67 shots since he was in net for a 5-4 loss to New Jersey last Wednesday.
The Rangers, seen as a Stanley Cup contender after their busy off-season, have lost four in a row and six of seven. Some of their best chances in this game came late, with Ryan Callahan hitting the right post with five minutes left. The Rangers also couldn’t score on a power play created by a too many men on the ice call on Pittsburgh with slightly less than four minutes left.
Callahan drew a costly tripping penalty with 1.4 seconds left in the first period, when Pittsburgh wasn’t pressuring to score. The Penguins converted with only 44 seconds gone in the second when Ryan Whitney slid the puck across the crease and it deflected off the heel of Malkin’s stick and past Lundqvist inside the near post.
Sidney Crosby got the second assist for his 10th point of the season.
Only 26 seconds later, Staal was hauled down by defenceman Fedor Tyutin near the blue line and was awarded a penalty shot. On the attempt, Staal tried to push the puck between Lundqvist’s pads, but the goalie covered up quickly to make the save.
Staal, now 19, was the youngest player in NHL history to score on a penalty shot when he did so against Columbus last season, but is 0-for-2 since then.
Malkin missed another chance for Pittsburgh to make it 2-0 later in the period, ringing a shot off the post with 2½ minutes remaining.
Notes: The Rangers were without F Martin Straka (broken right index finger), who is out for about a month. … The Rangers have scored one goal in the second period and have only five in the first two frames. … Staal played against brother Marc, a Rangers rookie defenceman, for the first time. … Pittsburgh has scored at least one power-play goal in all eight games. … Jagr, who broke into the league in 1991, has never gone this deep into a season with so few goals. .. The Penguins are 6-1-2 against the Rangers the last two seasons. Fleury is 7-0-2 against them since losing seven consecutive starts. … The Rangers have scored on the power play in two of eight games.