NEW YORK, N.Y. – Not only are the New York Rangers streaking on home ice, they are picking off some NHL powerhouses in the process.
That trend continued Tuesday night when New York used a four-goal second period to grab control against Pittsburgh and held on for a 4-3 victory over Sidney Crosby and the Penguins—the Rangers’ seventh straight win at Madison Square Garden.
The self-proclaimed “World’s Most Famous Arena” has undergone a major facelift that is only one-third complete, but the Rangers’ newfound success at home is every bit as impressive. Their 7-1-1 start at the Garden is the Rangers’ best since a similar mark in the 1992-93 season.
New York’s past two victories are a shutout win over Philadelphia on Saturday and this one versus Pittsburgh, both division rivals.
“We play six games against these guys, so it’s always a big rivalry,” said Marian Gaborik, who had a goal and assist. “It’s a physical game always against Philly and Pittsburgh. These are four-point games, so we want to make sure that we play well.
“We played with our identity. Everyone chipped in in different ways which is very positive.”
John Mitchell and Brad Richards scored 90 seconds apart in the second, Ryan Callahan joined Gaborik with a goal and assist, and Richards added two assists as New York won its 10th in 12 games overall. The four goals in the period matched a season high, done three previous times—including twice in three games.
Henrik Lundqvist made 24 saves for his 10th win in 17 outings.
Pittsburgh leads the NHL with 32 points, but the Rangers are only three behind and have played four fewer games.
“We’re having fun playing here,” Richards said. “You always want to take care of home ice. Especially in division games. It’s huge. We’re confident at home.”
Crosby helped set up James Neal’s first-period goal that gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead and assisted on Pascal Dupuis’ goal that made it 4-3 early in the third. Crosby has at least one point in four of five games since returning from a concussion that sidelined him since January. Crosby, who played at Madison Square Garden for the first time in exactly one year, has two goals and nine assists this season.
“I feel as good as I can for missing this amount of time, but there are still are a lot of areas to improve on,” Crosby said.
He wasn’t forgotten by Rangers fans during his long absence, and heard boos nearly every time he touched the puck.
Evgeni Malkin cut Pittsburgh’s deficit to 4-2 with 6.1 seconds left in the second period when he scored off a rebound of Neal’s shot, and Dupuis made it a one-goal game 3:39 into the third. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 26 shots.
Pittsburgh hurt its comeback chances by taking three straight penalties in a 2:08 span late in the third that gave the Rangers a pair of two-man advantages. The Penguins, 1-1 halfway through a four-game trip, are 6-6-2 on the road.
“We were getting close and it’s obviously tough,” Crosby said. “The penalty kill did a great job with two sets of 5-on-3s. They at least gave us a chance to get back in the game.
“It’s just unfortunate that really what it boiled down to was that second period and that lull we had.”
Callahan started the barrage 8:01 in on the Rangers’ first power play, taking a nice feed from Gaborik and scoring past Fleury. Mitchell gave New York the lead at 14:09 with his first of the season.
Mitchell and Carl Hagelin, who earned an assist, both have points in all three games since they were recalled from Connecticut of the AHL on Thursday.
Richards scored at 15:39, and Gaborik nudged the puck in at the right post for a power-play goal with 1:34 left in the second.
The Rangers were called for seven penalties in the first, and nearly got through unscathed, but they couldn’t kill a rare call on Lundqvist, which gave Pittsburgh its third power play. Lundqvist and defenceman Steve Eminger engaged in an extended jousting session in the crease with Penguins centre Joe Vitale.
All three were whistled for roughing, and the call against Lundqvist gave the Penguins the advantage on which Neal scored.
“I lost my temper a little bit there,” Lundqvist said. “They bumped into me probably three times in a couple of seconds. It was a bad penalty but it happens sometimes. I don’t think I hurt him too much.”
Fleury sent a pass that started the Pittsburgh rush up ice. Crosby eventually backhanded a pass from the right wing boards into the slot to Neal, who beat Lundqvist with 2:04 left for his 14th goal.
New York was called for six minor penalties and a fight by Sean Avery, who scrapped with Pittsburgh’s Tyler Kennedy twice in the opening 2:21.
NOTES: Neal was fined $2,500 by the NHL for high-sticking Montreal defenceman P.K. Subban on Saturday. … The Penguins recalled defencemen Alexandre Picard and Robert Bortuzzo from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton a few hours before the game to fill in for the injured Kris Letang and Zbynek Michalek. … Lundqvist’s only other penalty this season was for holding on Nov. 5 against Montreal. He has 12 career penalty minutes, six last season. … The Rangers are 5-1-1 against the Penguins in the past seven meetings. … Rangers D Marc Staal (concussion) has begun skating on his own. He has yet to play this season.