Surprise, surprise. Riding a 28-save performance by Henrik Lundqvist and a hustling offense, the Rangers stunned the Eastern Conference-leading Penguins with a 5-1 win at Madison Square on Wednesday night.
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury came in with 10 wins and a 1.83 goals-against average but was beaten by four different Rangers before the end of the second period. Derek Brassard scored the fifth goal at 9:57 of the third, coming down the right side to put in a rebound of Derek Dorsett's backhander.
"We played with speed," said Brian Boyle, who had his first goal of the season and a second-effort assist from his knees on Ryan McDonagh's opening goal at 18:08 of the first. "You have to respect them and the way they move the puck, but you've got to have a little swagger. They try to push the pace and we buckled down and did the same to them."
Earlier in the day, coach Alain Vigneault downplayed the suggestion of a trade to create more offense. "I think we need to get the pieces that we have here to play better," he said.
"Our forwards need to do a better job of screening the goaltender and getting to loose pucks. That's how, as a group, I think we can generate better offense and probably score more goals. These guys have got the potential to do it on a more consistent basis."
Vigneault got what he wished for as the Rangers climbed to 7-8 and 3-2 at home, with a visit to Columbus coming up Thursday night. It was the second time in three games that the Rangers scored five goals.
Sidney Crosby was kept off the scoreboard for only the third time in 16 games and Evgeny Malkin managed only a secondary assist. "McDonagh, [Marc] Staal and [Dan] Girardi all had strong games, both ways," Vigneault said.
After some luck and some smart defensive plays, the Rangers finished the first period with a flourish, scoring twice in 1:05. After McDonagh's quick wrister beat Fleury just inside the left post, Zuccarello forced a turnover by Kris Letang by the Penguins' blue line and floated a pass into the slot, where Derek Stepan caught up to it and fired the puck past Fleury with 47 seconds left for a 2-0 lead.
Lundqvist made six of his 12 saves in the first eight minutes, the first on Sidney Crosby just 20 seconds in, with a diving poke check as No. 87 flew past McDonagh to the crease. Lundqvist also made a lightning-quick left toe save on another Crosby shot. Ryan Callahan saved a goal by shoveling away a point shot by Matt Niskanen that trickled toward the goal line after squeezing through Lundqvist's pads. The Rangers, who had killed a power play at 5:27, caught a break when Craig Adams hit the far post from the left circle.
In the second, Boyle provided a 3-0 lead, scoring his first of the season off a three-on-two rush and a centering pass from Brad Richards at 13:10. Lundqvist stopped Jayson Megna nine seconds later, but the Penguins finally capitalized on their fourth power play when Letang jammed in a loose puck on the doorstep at 14:34.
But Callahan restored the three-goal lead 1:04 later on a double deflection. Carl Hagelin spun with the puck near the right side of the blue line and fired. Richards ticked the puck first and Callahan got a sliver in front. It was Callahan's first goal since he returned against the Ducks after missing seven games with a broken thumb.
"We had confidence we could respond," Callahan said. "Divisional opponent, we know these are four-point games. It's a win we can build on."