Carrying the weight of a six-game winless streak, their longest since 2006, the Rangers fell behind the Penguins by two goals in the first 5:06 Sunday. The Garden crowd was moaning and directing jeers toward Henrik Lundqvist and his teammates, and coach John Tortorella called a timeout.
"What I told them was - you could feel it - it was getting a little hinky in the building," he said. "It certainly wasn't the greatest start we wanted. It was probably the worst thing we wanted. I said we just have to stay together and chip away, not get too excited and try to close everything off. We needed to score our first goal before they got anything else, and we did."
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Just 37 seconds later, Brian Boyle won a faceoff, went to the net and deflected Marc Staal's point shot past Marc-Andre Fleury, and the mood shifted in the building and on the bench. When Ryan Callahan scored the first of his two power-play goals at 9:20, it seemed as though the clouds around the Rangers had parted, and they went on to a 5-3 victory.
"We settled ourselves down, and all of a sudden, I'm not going to say it's confidence, but we were back in the game again," said Vinny Prospal, whose goal put the Rangers ahead for good at 1:34 of the second period. "You get the crowd back on your side again. It made a difference."
The two points were the first for the Rangers (30-24-4) since they gained one in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Penguins Feb. 1.
After Prospal's goal, the Rangers scored two more in the second period - Callahan's second of the game at 11:04 and Artem Anisimov's 12th at 15:23 on another power play - to surge to a 5-2 lead after 40 minutes.
The Penguins closed the gap on a power-play goal at 5:12 of the third by Brett Sterling, one of the players getting an opportunity for the Penguins, who are down nine forwards because of injuries and suspensions.
When Michael Sauer went off on a double-minor for high-sticking at 9:29, Tortorella said he thought to himself, "Here we go again." But the penalty-kill thwarted the man-advantage, as it had in the first when Brandon Dubinsky was off for four minutes for holding and high-sticking.
"We scored three power-play goals,'' Tortorella said, "but our penalty-killing was even more important."
Lundqvist savored the win, his first since a 3-2 shootout win over the Thrashers on Jan. 22.
"They work hard, but when [Sidney] Crosby and [Evgeni] Malkin are there, it's a different level on their power play and offense,'' he said. "It's just a big relief. We've been working hard the last couple weeks and coming up short."
Eleven Rangers hit the scoresheet, with Staal getting two assists. The Rangers, who are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference (four points clear of ninth-place Atlanta), hadn't scored more than three goals in 19 of their previous 20 games.
"It's definitely good to stop the bleeding now," said Callahan, who had a season-high three points. "We put ourselves in a bit of a bind standings-wise, losing all those games in a row, but now that we've got this one under our belt, we can start looking at teams ahead of us, not teams behind us."