PITTSBURGH — Henrik Lundqvist made a minor adjustment in his game, and it turned into a major victory last night for the Rangers.
“I changed a detail two games ago, I’m not going to tell you what, but I did something that really brought me back to something that’s very important to my game,” said Lundqvist, who made 34 saves in the 3-0 win for his third shutout of the season and 58th of his career. “Benny [goaltending coach Benoit Allaire] challenged me a little bit two games ago, and we talked about shutouts. I came close last game, but we got it done tonight. They don’t come easy these days for me. ’’
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Lundqvist, who had five shutouts in each of the last two seasons, recorded his first since a 3-0 whitewash of Nashville on Nov. 23 as the positive results keep coming for the Rangers, who extended their winning streak to four games and are 7-2 in the last nine.
In the first game of the season between the two teams since meeting in the first round of last year’s playoffs — they will play three more times in March — Sidney Crosby was held without a shot on goal after scoring 10 goals in the last seven games and 22 points in his last 11.
“You know he’s hot coming in, and I thought we did a really good job in our neutral zone,” said defenseman Marc Staal. “He likes to come across with speed and when he does, he’s got options. If you can slow him down and we can play defense blue-line in, it makes our job a lot easier.”
In the team-wide effort, the Blueshirts also blocked 25 shots. Defensemen Dan Girardi and Dan Boyle led the team with five blocks each.
Ahead 1-0 going into the third period in a game that wasn’t an offensive masterpiece for the Blueshirts, who finished with just 22 shots, Dominic Moore kept the puck on a two-on-one rush and beat goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury with a wrister at 4:21.
Jesper Fast added an unassisted empty-netter with 1:31 left.
But Moore’s goal, his first since Dec. 30 and fifth of the season, provided a crucial cushion in a building where goals come fast and furious. The Penguins had won six of their previous seven games, scoring 23 goals.
“I just liked the way we competed,” said Lundqvist, who made his 666th appearance, tying Mike Richter for the most for a goaltender in team history. “We were getting to loose pucks on rebounds to help clean things up. We know coming in we were playing a really hot team; we had a bumpy start, but found our legs.”
After the Penguins had five of the first six shots and stymied a power play, Kevin Hayes grabbed a rebound of Tanner Glass’ shot in front and scored his eighth of the season under a leaping Daniel Paille at 8:34.
That the Blueshirts (31-18-5 overall, 11-13-3 on the road) were ahead was surprising, given the turnovers by almost every defenseman, with multiple gaffes by Boyle. But Lundqvist stopped an open Oscar Sundqvist and Chris Kunitz’s tip. The Penguins weren’t really crisp, though, with passes just missing targets and shots going wide. Early in the second, Conor Sheary skated in between Boyle and Staal but his backhander hit the post.
“We didn’t quite execute the way we have recently,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan. “We didn’t finish. But give them credit, they defended hard.”