For much of the first period Friday night at the CONSOL Energy Center it seemed quite obvious which team had played the night before and arrived late in Pittsburgh, and which team was well-rested and had not played in five days. However by the end of the game, the Rangers refused to accept any excuses for not being at their best, and instead skated away with an impressive 3-1 victory over the Penguins, just 24 hours after having beaten the Florida Panthers 3-2 in overtime at The Garden.
Nothing came easy for a weary-looking Rangers team in the early going Friday as they surrendered the first seven shots of the game, as well as Ben Lovejoy's game-opening goal 5:43 into the contest. But Brad Richards tied the game before the period was over, and the Blueshirts settled down to play another intelligent and effective road game.
Brandon Dubinsky swung the game in New York's favor by scoring the team's sixth shorthanded goal of the season---off a perfect Ryan Callahan feed on the 2-on-1 rush---just 3:09 into the second period. Then Derek Stepan scored into a gaping net---with Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury caught well out of position misplaying a dump-in---just 80 seconds into the third period to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead.
An apparent James Neal goal for Pittsburgh at 8:59 of the final period was waved off as Chris Kunitz was deemed to interfere with Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Shortly thereafter the rangers did an excellent job killing off a penalty to Marc Staal to preserve the two-goal lead.
Lundqvist was superb yet again in goal for the Rangers, finishing with 36 saves in winning his sixth straight decision. He was particularly sharp during a second-period stretch where his glove left Kunitz and Neal shaking their heads in shock following a pair of rapid-fire saves.
The win was the fourth straight for the Blueshirts, who have also won nine of their past ten games. The Rangers upped their lead atop the NHL's standings to three points over both Boston and Vancouver, and they currenlty have 56 points in 39 games played already this season. The team is also an incredible 5-0-1 in the second game of back-to-backs this season. And the Rangers are also now 9-1-0 against the Atlantic Division.