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Rangers vs. Penguins recap: Explosive first period helps New York snap Pittsburgh's seven-game win streak

In the first time the Rangers and Penguins have met since last year's playoffs, the Rangers found their groove in a major way.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes, all it takes is an old friend to get you back into the swing of things.

The Rangers and Penguins may not be friends, but the two teams are rather familiar with each other. And as was the case the last three times these teams met in May, the Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist stood tall.

New York exploded for three goals over a 6:24 stretch in the first period and never looked back, defeating the Penguins 5-0 Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.

After two flat performances over the weekend at Toronto and versus Edmonton, the Rangers came out flying from the opening faceoff against Pittsburgh, winning puck races and hemming the Penguins deep in their own end. Through the game's first six minutes, the Rangers were outshooting Pittsburgh 8-3.

Yet it was the Penguins who almost struck first, as a shot trickled through Lundqvist, but was cleared off the goal line by Tanner Glass midway through the period.

Then the Rangers turned on the goals.

The flurry began with a Derek Stepan faceoff win that Mats Zuccarello immediately fired over the glove of Marc-Andre Fleury to make it 1-0 Blueshirts.

Just 2:36 later, the Rangers doubled their lead on the stick of Martin St. Louis. After a Marc Staal point shot caught the pad of Fleury, Rick Nash corralled the loose puck and shoveled it over to St. Louis who tapped it into the open half of the net for a 2-0 edge.

The strong first period and scoring was capped off by Kevin Klein, who scored his third of the season with a shot from the point. Kevin Hayes was stopped down low by Fleury, but collected his own rebound and found Klein for the goal.

While the Penguins came out skating better in the second period, it was the Rangers who would score the game's only goal in the middle frame. It began with a sequence at the net-front where it appeared Hayes pushed the puck past Fleury, but was ruled a no-goal on the ice, and upheld with a video review.

But Steve Downie was penalized during the scramble in the crease, and on the ensuing power play, Derick Brassard looked off both the defense and Fleury before firing a puck just under the bar and in to make it 4-0 Rangers. The goal broke a streak of 39 consecutive penalties killed by the Penguins.

With only the shutout and two points to play for in the game's final 20 minutes, the Rangers padded their lead again. As Dan Girardi was in the box for hooking, Stepan won a foot race after the Rangers dumped the puck deep into Pittsburgh's end. The next player up the ice was Nash, who Stepan hit out in front with a quick pass all alone, and Nash pushed the puck past Fleury on the backhand to make it 5-0. The goal, New York's first shorthanded tally and Nash's 12th of the season, put him in sole possession of the league lead.

The shutout was Lundqvist's third of the season, as the franchise leader in clean sheets stopped all 33 shots he saw Tuesday night. Returning to the Rangers lineup from suspension was John Moore, who logged nearly 22 minutes. Jesper Fast also made his Rangers debut of the season, playing a shade under 12 minutes himself.

It was truly a strong game for a number of Rangers. Nash logged a goal and two assists, and a much crisper looking Stepan also had two assists. Staal, tasked with shadowing Sidney Crosby all night, limited the Penguins captain to one shot on goal, and even added two assists.

The Rangers will be back in action Thursday night when they host the Colorado Avalanche.