NEW YORK -- There are times when statistics really don't tell the story of a game, and this is one of them.
The stat sheet from the New York Rangers' 4-0 victory against the Penguins at Madison Square Garden last night showed New York with a 31-18 advantage in shots.
Take those numbers at face value, and one might conclude that the Penguins were thoroughly outplayed, that they never had a realistic chance at taking a point or two from the Rangers.
It was a whole lot worse than that.
Fact is, it's entirely possible that the number of perspiration droplets the Penguins generated -- especially during the first two periods -- didn't match the total of pucks New York threw at goaltender Dany Sabourin.
"We didn't show up to play," center Jordan Staal said. "We obviously didn't work for our chances, or even work for any shots."
The Penguins recorded just five shots during the first 40 minutes. That means they got nearly three-quarters of their total during the final period, long after everything except the Rangers' margin of victory had been determined.
"Bad performance," coach Michel Therrien said. "We didn't compete. The Rangers were a better team than us. They wanted it more. They deserved to win. It's pretty simple."
Easy to understand, but not to explain, apparently. Asked why he thought the Penguins put forth such a miserable effort, Therrien responded that he had "no clue."
The loss dropped the Penguins' record to 16-15-2 and, more perhaps important, to 4-9-1 inside the Atlantic Division. Only Edmonton, which is 5-10-1 against other clubs in the Northwest, has an intra-division record anywhere near as poor as the Penguins'.
It didn't matter that Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist has been ill of late, and that New York coach Tom Renney did know until the game-day skate that Lundqvist would be able to play.
Turns out Lundqvist could have been hooked up to an IV and strapped to a gurney without jeopardizing his chances of earning his sixth shutout of the season, because he rarely was required to do anything more strenuous than staying awake in his crease.
"For most of the night, we had the puck on our sticks," New York right winger Jaromir Jagr said.
The Rangers, 1-4-1 in their previous six games, took a 1-0 lead just 72 seconds after the opening faceoff, as Scott Gomez chipped a Martin Straka rebound past Sabourin from in front of the net.
Straka made it 2-0 at 10:30 of the second period by deflecting a Marc Staal shot past Sabourin -- that gave the Rangers a 19-4 advantage in shots -- and Gomez put New York up by three when his centering pass from the bottom of the left circle squirted between Sabourin's legs at 13:21.
The Penguins' best -- OK, only -- scoring opportunity of the period came about 81/2 minutes in, when Sidney Crosby and Ryan Whitney had a two-on-one near the New York net, but Whitney's pass rattled around Crosby's skates and did not result in a legitimate shot on goal.
New York picked up two goals in the second; the Penguins countered with two shots.
"They're a solid team, so even when you're playing well, you're still probably going to have limited chances," Crosby said. "And when you play like we did in the first two, you're not going to give yourself a chance."
Although the Penguins actually registered a pulse after the second intermission, they couldn't prevent Chris Drury from pushing New York's advantage to 4-0 by beating Sabourin from the front lip of the crease during a power play at 12:20.
The Rangers scored on two of seven chances with the extra man; the Penguins were 0 for 5 and, more often than not, never forced Lundqvist to make a save while New York was down a man. That meant the Penguins' power-play work dovetailed nicely with their offensive performance at even strength.
"We didn't generate a lot, that's for sure," Crosby said. "It wasn't one of our most productive [games]."
No, but it could turn out to be a pretty useful one. At the very least, it established a new level of ineptitude against which the Penguins' most wretched showings for the rest of this season can be measured.
That doesn't mean it came with a plausible explanation.
"There's no excuses, for sure," the Penguins' Staal said. "We should have been up for this game."
Dave Molinari can be reached at DWMolinari@Yahoo.com .