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The New York Rangers continued their outstanding play with their fourth consecutive victory by defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 Friday night. The Rangers extended their league leading point total to 56 and expanded their domination within the Atlantic division to an impressive 8-1 this season.
Henrik Lundqvist was outstanding all night stopping 37 of 38 shots fired his way. The Penguins spent much of the night firing for Lundqvist glove hand, but the Rangers goaltender proved once again that the glove is no longer a weakness for him. The win improved Lundqvist to 18-7-4 on the season, including six straight wins. With the team success this season Lundqvist is in position to finally be recognized as the best goaltender in the league this year.
Once again the Rangers were not great for 60 minutes, but they have found the formula to continuing winning games. The collective effort and willingness of everyone to give their body up was on display as the game went on and frustrated the Penguins. The Rangers and Bruins certainly seem to be separating themselves as the class of the Eastern Conference right now.
Ben Lovejoy gave the Penguins the early advantage when he jumped into the rush and beat Lundqvist five-hole from the slot. The goal was all about Penguins transition after Matt Niskanen and Brian Boyle went down along the wall in the Rangers offensive zone and Lovejoy beat Ruslan Fedotenko the other way for the open shot.
The Rangers were dominated for almost the entire first period, managing only one shot in the first 18:08 of the period, but thanks to the work of Henrik Lundqvist were only down 1-0. Brad Richards would erase the deficit with 1:43 remaining in the first when he scored a very similar goal to his tally in the Winter Classic. Richards won the draw, McDonagh pinched down the boards and fired the puck across from the goal line, and after hitting Dubinsky in front, the puck came to Richards for basically an empty-netter.
The Rangers were able to play their game much more effectively in the second period and it showed on the scoreboard very early. With Marc Staal in the box for a high sticking penalty, Callahan and Dubinsky worked their magic in Pittsburgh again with Dubinsky scoring the shorthanded goal. Callahan creates the opportunity by breaking up the right side, doing a curl and drag around the Penguin defender and feeding Dubinsky for an easy finish. The goal was almost a carbon copy of the overtime game winner Callahan got in Pittsburgh last season, just reversed. Dubinsky’s two point night gives him 200 career NHL points.
Opening the third the speed of Marian Gaborik created the Rangers two goal advantage when he forced Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury to come out and play the puck. Fleury fanned on his attempt leading to Gaborik firing the puck off the post and eventually ending up on the stick of Derek Stepan for his ninth goal of the season.
Towards the middle of the third it appeared momentarily that James Neal had cut the Rangers lead in half, but the goal was quickly waved off when it was ruled that Chris Kunitz interfered with Lundqvist in the crease.
- Dubinsky had another excellent game and is continuing to show he has found his game. Hopefully the improvements in Dubinsky’s game can quell some of the calls for the Rangers to go out and trade for another top-6 forward.
- Enjoying the trust that Tortorella has in his fourth line to stick them out the shift after goals. They do not play a large number of minutes, but the situations in which Tortorella is using Prust-Mitchell-Rupp is showing he believes in them.
- Marc Staal certainly isn’t playing as if he is concerned about taking hits to the head as he dished out a few and is getting involved in a number of scrums after the whistle.