The New York Rangers marched into Pittsburgh this afternoon, and came away with a huge 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. This win now pulls the Rangers within two points of the second place Penguins, and also ties them for third place in the Metropolitan Division with the Washington Capitals.
Unlike the last two games, the Rangers went at the Penguins right off of the opening face-off, which caused problems for the Penguins in the neutral zone all afternoon. The Rangers also got back to their speed game after taking the last two games off, and it resulted in tons of opportunities in the offensive zone. Just 26 seconds into the game, the Rangers were able to capitalize off of a costly miscue by Kris Letang. Rick Nash pounced on the loose puck at the blue line, and broke in on a two-on-one with Mats Zuccarello on the far side. With Paul Martin speeding back, Nash opted to shoot the puck, and ripped it right under the arm of Marc-Andre Fleury for the early 1-0 lead.
The Rangers didn't stop there though, as just six minutes later, the Rangers extended their lead to 2-0 courtesy of Derick Brassard. The goal wound up coming off of a face-off loss, but Rick Nash supported the play perfectly, and dished the puck back to Kevin Klein for the bomb. Klein's shot wound up getting caught in traffic at the top of the crease, and Derick Brassard was able to slam home the loose puck.
After the Rangers impressive opening sequence, they slowed down considerably after getting into penalty trouble. The Rangers took two straight penalties following the second goal, which eventually set up a perfect opportunity for the Penguins to claw their way back into the game. Sure enough, just about a minute into Chris Kreider's interference penalty, Sidney Crosby pulled the Penguins back within a goal.
David Perron set up the play beautifully as he found Crosby cutting in on the backdoor, and slipped a pass through the seam just before Ryan McDonagh was in position. That goal put the Rangers in a difficult position, especially after controlling a majority of the play in the opening minutes of the game. The late goal by the Penguins didn't phase them though, as the Rangers rattled off two quick goals in the second period.
The first goal came just 2:39 into the second as Rick Nash's shot from up top took a deflection in front, and popped in behind Fleury. Then just over three minutes later, it was Derek Stepan who cashed in on a beautiful pass from Martin St. Louis, and ripped it by Fleury on the power play. That would eventually end the afternoon for Fleury, who was yanked after the fourth goal and replaced by Thomas Greiss for the remainder of the game.
After taking a 4-1 lead into the third period, the Rangers found themselves back on their heels after David Perron pulled the Penguins back within two goals. The goal came just 4:16 into the third period, and appeared to give the Penguins some life after a pretty miserable second period. Just as the Penguins were starting to catch their groove again, Derek Stepan put an end to it immediately with a goal just two minutes after Perron's tally. Stepan was able to catch a loose puck off of Chris Kreider's shot, and ripped it over the shoulder of Greiss to restore the three goal lead.
The Penguins were unable to generate much offense following Stepan's goal, and eventually fell to the Rangers by a score of 5-2. This win now gives the Rangers their second straight win, as they head into their final game before the All-Star break against the Ottawa Senators.