The Rangers did something Tuesday night at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh that they had never done inside that building before. Unfortunately, it was something they would have preferred not to do. They lost to the Penguins 2-0, their first defeat at the CONSOL Energy Center since the arena opened prior to the 2010-11 season.
Despite winning all three games in this arena last season, and snagging a 3-1 win here on January 6th, the Rangers were unable to secure another victory Tuesday night as the league's top scorer, Evgeni Malkin, added a pair of points to his ledger, and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury proved impenetrable on the night.
After a scoreless first period, which was largely controlled by the Penguins---who outshot the visitors 11-6 in the opening 20 minutes, Malkin struck for Pittsburgh just 65 seconds into the middle period. With the Rangers caught in deep in the offensive zone, Malkin was sent off on a complete breakaway with a crisp outlet pass by Kris Letang. Malkin flew in at Henrik Lundqvist and finished with a perfect backhand for his 33rd goal of the season to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead.
Malkin then earned the primary assist on Steve Sullivan's power play goal at 11:14 of the second period---a slap shot through traffic in front---which doubled Pittsburgh's advantage. Malkin now has a league-best 73 points on the season.
Despite allowing a pair of goals, Lundqvist turned in another quality outing between the pipes. He was especially good during several Pittsburgh flurries in the opening and closing periods---instances where he faced repeated shots as the Rangers were unable to clear the puck out of their zone. Lundqvist finished with 29 saves on the night and suffered his first defeat since February 6th, a span of five starts.
At the other end of the ice Fleury earned the 22nd shutout of his career, and third this season. His glove save on Artem Anisimov's in-tight backhander in the second period was likely his best of the game. The closest the Rangers came to scoring was when Ryan McDonagh's power play wrist shot clanged off the iron early in the middle stanza. Fleury stopped all 27 shots he faced, including 12 in the second period.
After wining four in a row, the Rangers have now lost two of their last three games.