The New York Rangers used some new faces to shock the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opener of a home-and-home series, but the Eastern Conference leaders will be out for revenge in Friday's finale in the Steel City.
New York slammed the visiting Penguins by a 6-1 score on Wednesday, as the Rangers ended a seven-game series' losing streak to Pittsburgh with their highest offensive output of the season.
Ryane Clowe scored two goals and assisted on another in a dazzling Rangers debut, while Derick Brassard delivered a four-point night just hours after being acquired by the club to help New York register the rout of the suddenly slumping Penguins at Madison Square Garden.
Brassard, one of three players who came over from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for three-time 40-goal scorer Marian Gaborik during Wednesday's trade deadline, tallied once and recorded three assists in New York's first six-goal effort of the season. Defenseman John Moore, also part of the Gaborik deal, lit the lamp as well in his first outing as a Ranger.
"You can see Brassard's skill and he has pretty good awareness," said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. "He passed the puck and scored a goal. He was good on face-offs. Moore is the one I am really interested in because I know the least about him. He's a terrific skater and I thought he did a really good job defending and made some really good reads."
Brian Boyle also racked up a goal and three helpers for New York, while Henrik Lundqvist turned back 26-of-27 shots. The Rangers have won two straight and three of their last five and enter Friday tied with the New Jersey Devils for the eighth and final playoff seed in the East.
Clowe, brought in by the Rangers in a trade with San Jose on Tuesday, didn't have a single goal in 28 games with the Sharks, but played an instrumental role for his new club as New York dealt the Penguins a second straight setback following a 15-game winning streak that was halted with Monday's 4-1 home loss to Buffalo.
Both of those defeats came without the services of star center Sidney Crosby, who is sidelined indefinitely with a broken jaw sustained over the weekend. Despite the consecutive losses, Pittsburgh is still 16 points ahead of the New York Islanders for first place in the Atlantic and is also three points in front of Montreal for the conference lead.
"We have to find ways to do better than that," Penguins center Brandon Sutter said. "To a man here we know that's unacceptable. I can't explain why or why it went that way the last two games."
Pascal Dupuis scored the lone goal for Pittsburgh, which received 33 saves from Marc-Andre Fleury in the loss.
The Penguins, who acquired Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray in the week leading up to the trade deadline, picked up forward Jussi Jokinen in a deal with Carolina on Wednesday. Jokinen, who had six goals and five assists in 33 games with the Hurricanes this season, was acquired for a conditional sixth-round draft pick and he's expected to be in the lineup tonight.
Iginla has one goal in his first three games with the Pens, while Morrow has managed just one assist in five outings. Murray, the lone defenseman of Pittsburgh's new additions, has an assist in four games with the Penguins.
Wednesday's defeat was Pittsburgh's first loss against the Rangers since Jan. 6, 2012. New York will try to snap a three-game losing streak in Pittsburgh on Friday.
This evening's tilt is the final scheduled meeting between these Atlantic Division rivals this season.