1) Get an early lead
2) Make the Penguins pay when they got a power play
3) Neutralize Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin
4) Get a stellar performance from Henrik Lundqvist.
Well, the Rangers did just that and it all culminated in a well-earned 4-0 victory over their Atlantic Division rivals. The win vaulted the Rangers back into first place in the division.
Step one was getting an early lead, and after Maxime Talbot went off for boarding 31 seconds in, Nigel Dawes checked that off the list. His wrister from the left circle went off a Penguin skate and into the net exactly one minute in to put the Rangers on the board, and giving Dawes his third goal in the last four games. This was a surprise considering how awful the Rangers man-advantage has been as of late. But it would only get better for the Blueshirts.
With the second period winding down, the Rangers capitalized on another power play opportunity, completing step number two. Matt Cooke went off for interfering with Brandon Dubinsky and off the face-off, Paul Mara blasted a slapper from the blue line past Marc-Andre Fleury for a 2-0 advantage. It was Mara’s third tally of the season.
The Rangers added two more in the third, one by Drury as he one-timed a puck right in front of Fleury of a great pass from Petr Prucha behind the net. It was Drury’s 11th of the year. Then, Scott Gomez tapped in an empty netter with the Penguins on a power play to give New York the 4-0 lead.
Not only were the Rangers great on offense, but they almost completely shut down Crosby and Malkin the entire game. While the two did get eight shots on goal, they finished without a point and were a combined -3 for the game. In addition, Crosby took two penalties (hooking and interference) in the second period that forced his team into defensive mode.
The final step to success was a great performance from Lundqvist, who had been struggling recently. Well, the Rangers certainly got it. The King stopped all 26 shots he faced to earn his first shut-out of the season. The Penguins tested him early and often, but Lundqvist stood tall and was equal to every task presented. It was a brilliant performance following a great show by Steve Valiquette on Saturday in Washington despite losing 2-1.
Now, the Rangers have some momentum to build off of as they face another talented team in the Canadiens on Wednesday before embarking on a five-game road trip. Fortunately, the furthest they’ll go is Chicago. If the Rangers want to keep the momentum, they’ll need to continue exactly what they did tonight. Play consistent, capitalize on the power play, neutralize the playmakers on the opposing team, and get great goaltending. That’s the method to success!