Penguins right winger Bryan Rust wraps puck around the net against the Rangers in the first period at Consol Energy Center.
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury makes save against the Rangers.
Penguins defenseman Derrick Pouliot battles for loose puck with Rangers centerman JT Miller.
By Dave Molinari / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Before Wednesday night, the Penguins hadn’t seen the New York Rangers since Round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring.
The Rangers haven’t changed much.
Neither did the result.
New York beat the Penguins, 3-0, at Consol Energy Center using a formula that has served them well, especially against the Penguins: Opportunistic offense, diligent defense and world-class goaltending by Henrik Lundqvist.
He stopped all 34 Penguins shots to record his 58th career regular-season shutout, four of which have come against the Penguins.
“He’s a good goalie,” Penguins winger Conor Sheary said. “You run into that sometimes.”
The loss snapped the Penguins’ six-game winning streak on home ice and left them with a tenuous grip on the second wild-card playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
The Penguins [27-19-7] and New Jersey Devils have 61 points each, but the Penguins have played two fewer games.
The Rangers, second to Washington in the Metropolitan Division, not only moved six points ahead of the Penguins, but also ended an exceptional run by center Sidney Crosby.
He had at least one goal in seven consecutive games, one or more goals in nine games in a row at home and 11-game points streaks both overall and at Consol Energy Center before being shut out by New York.
And the Penguins might have lost more than two points because defenseman Trevor Daley left the game in the first period with an undisclosed injury.
Daley got tied up with Rangers forward Jesper Fast before sliding back-first into the goalpost at 10:23. He took one more 20-second shift before adjourning to the locker room.
“He brings a lot of different things, but I thought considering we had five [defensemen] for a good chunk of the game, I thought they handled it well,” Crosby said.
“It wasn’t easy. We’ll have to have somebody step in there and make up for that loss.”
Coach Mike Sullivan said after the game that he did not have any information on Daley’s injury.
New York got the only goal it needed at 8:34 of the opening period, when Kevin Hayes tossed a Tanner Glass rebound past Penguins goalie Marc-AndreFleury.
The Rangers didn’t score again until Dominic Moore converted a two-on-one break at 4:21 of the third. Between those goals, the Penguins had several quality opportunities to beat Lundqvist, but failed.
About two minutes into the second period, Sheary fought through the defense pairing of Marc Staal and Dan Boyle to break in alone on Lundqvist, but threw a backhander off the crossbar. With a little less than six minutes remaining in the second, Bryan Rust and Tom Kuhnhackl had a two-on-one break. Rust slid the puck to Kuhnhackl, but he shot wide.
“We played pretty well,” Rust said. “We just didn’t the put the puck in the net. They had their scoring chances, and they did.”
One of those chances for New York came early in the third, when the Rangers got a two-on-one break after Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin made an ill-considered decision to pinch in the attacking zone.
“We were down a goal, so my first instinct was to jump,” Dumoulin said. “I should have just backed out and lived to fight another day.”
Instead, Moore scored, effectively clinching the victory. New York got two points, and the Penguins got a costly reminder.
“It’s tough when you play against a team like that,” defenseman Kris Letang said. “They have a lot of experience. They play well with the lead.”
As the Rangers usually do against them.
Dave Molinari: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @MolinariPG.
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