The New York Rangers earned a hard fought road win this evening, and fueled by Henrik Lundqvist's shutout, defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins by a final score of 3-0. Aside from some sloppy play in their own end during the first period, the Rangers were able to settle in during the second half of the game. Of course, a lot of that was thanks to the strong play of Henrik Lundqvist, but at the same time, the Rangers do deserve a ton of credit for holding Sidney Crosby without a shot on goal.
Another positive takeaway from tonight was the fact that the Rangers were able to stop a red-hot Penguins team, minus Ryan McDonagh and Rick Nash. It is still unknown when either of the two will return, but the good news is that the Rangers keep trucking forward without two key players. That can only bode well for them moving forward, and hopefully, the Rangers won't be without them for much longer.
Despite the Rangers defensive woes in the early going, they were able to catch the Penguins on the counterattack and gained the early lead. Keith Yandle got the entire play started with a beautiful stretch pass up to Tanner Glass off the boards, and that wound up backing off the defensemen. Glass was able to get off a quick shot as he came flying into the zone, and that generated a rebound right at the top of the crease.
Kevin Hayes, who was trailing the play, scooped up the loose puck and danced around Marc-Andre Fleury with a nifty little toe drag. All Hayes had to do at that point was get the puck on net, and he gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead at the 8:34 mark of the first period. That goal was huge to give the Rangers a jolt of confidence after the slow start, and they carried it the rest of the way.
Neither team was able to get on the board during the second period, but it certainly wasn't for a lack of action. With a one goal lead still firmly in their favor, the Rangers looked to close this one out with a strong third period. Sure enough, just 4:21 into the final frame, Dominic Moore converted on a 2-on-1 rush and doubled up the Rangers lead. While Moore will get all the credit for his filthy snipe, Derek Stepan deserves tons of praise for his brilliant chip play in the neural zone that created the rush.
Moore's goal appeared to take the last bit of life out of the Penguins, but they still continued to pressure the Rangers in hopes of catching a break. Unfortunately for them, Lundqvist was locked in all night long and they just couldn't find a way to get one past him. With about a minute and a half remaining in regulation, Jesper Fast was able to gain center ice and shoveled a puck into the Penguins zone.
The puck wound up sliding past both defensemen and slipped into the empty net, which gave the Rangers a commanding 3-0 lead. That essentially iced the game for the Rangers, and Dylan McIlrath finished off the game with one final crunch on Tom Kuhnhackl along the boards. That win now makes it four in a row for the Rangers, and those two points were huge with the Penguins sneaking up behind them in the standings.
The next couple of games will be crucial for the Rangers, and they will start off a mini three-game home stand on Friday night against the Los Angeles Kings.