Published February 21, 2012
PITTSBURGH – Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 27 shots to tie Tom Barrasso's franchise record for career shutouts and carry the Pittsburgh Penguins past the New York Rangers 2-0 on Tuesday night.
Evgeni Malkin scored his 33rd goal of the season and added an assist on Steve Sullivan's tally to help the Penguins bounce back from a listless loss in Buffalo on Sunday and handle the Eastern Conference's top team with relative ease.
Henrik Lundqvist made 29 stops for the Rangers, but New York lost for the second time in three games. The Rangers were outplayed for lengthy stretches by the Penguins.
The Rangers had a handful of solid opportunities, but each time Fleury was equal to the task. He made a series of flashy glove saves to earn his 22nd NHL shutout, tying the mark Barrasso set while playing for Pittsburgh from 1988-2000.
Pittsburgh posted its first home win over the Rangers since 2009. The Penguins played with a playoff-like intensity, dominating the puck at times against a team that is among the best defensive units in the league.
The Rangers have been one of the hottest teams over the last three months behind the stellar goaltending of Lundqvist and a patient, selfless defense that began the night fourth in the NHL in blocked shots.
New York added to that number, repeatedly hitting the ice to take away opportunities — particularly in the first period. Pittsburgh spent more than two minutes in the Rangers' zone during one sequence while both teams were at even strength, sapping New York's energy so much that coach John Tortorella was forced to use his timeout early.
It worked, but only for a while.
The Penguins rank second in the league in shots, and they kept firing from all angles. They eventually broke through early in the second period behind Malkin.
The Russian took a long pass from Kris Letang and raced in on Lundqvist from the left. He faked a forehand, getting Lundqvist to commit, and then easily tucked in the puck with his backhand as a sprawled Lundqvist reached out with his stick in vain.
The goal ended a mini-slump for Malkin, who went three games without one. It was his longest drought since going seven games between scores from Dec. 17 and Jan. 7.
Sullivan made it 2-0 with his 11th of the season on the power play, just past the midway point of the period. He fired a shot from the point that Lundqvist never saw because of a screen by Cooke. Malkin slid the puck over to Sullivan on the play to earn his 40th assist of the season and 300th of his career.
Pittsburgh has been treading water over the last three weeks, good one game, bad the next. The Penguins romped past Philadelphia on Saturday, getting production from outside the top line. The team celebrated by signing forward James Neal to a six-year contract extension on Sunday shortly before getting whipped 6-2 in Buffalo.
They responded, however, with perhaps their finest 60 minutes of the season.
NOTES: The Penguins have three days off before continuing a homestand on Saturday against Tampa Bay. ... The Rangers will visit the New York Islanders on Friday, trying to avoid their first losing streak since Dec. 13 and 15. ... The Penguins scratched defenseman Brooks Orpik because of an undisclosed upper body injury that coach Dan Bylsma described as minor.