Thursday, December 01, 2005

Lundqvist Turns Pens Away

After a four day break, the Rangers returned to their winning ways- defeating the Penguins (7-13-6) 2-1 Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. It was their sixth straight win, pushing them 10 games over .500.

Despite facing a division rival which started the day 15 points behind them, it didn't come easy for the Rangers. They needed every one of first year Swedish sensation Henrik Lundqvist's 35 saves to improve to 9-2-2 at MSG. In particular, Lundqvist was really strong in the third period- stopping all 10 shots he faced including a Mark Recchi redirect in the final minute to seal the victory. He also stoned Erik Christensen and John LeClair minutes prior.

Coming out sharp in the early going, the Blueshirts jumped out in front on rookie defenseman Maxim Kondratiev's first NHL career goal. With one second left on a Dick Tarnstrom double minor, Kondratiev's shot from the left wing deflected off a Pen past Marc-Andre Fleury at 7:52. Returning from a sore back, Steve Rucchin tallied an assist along with Jaromir Jagr on the goal.

With the help of Lundqvist (13 first period saves), New York killed two Pittsburgh power plays to stay ahead after one.

However, early in the second, the Penguins tied it on Ryan Whitney's first career NHL goal. Unable to get the puck out of their end, the Rangers allowed Recchi to work the puck to an isolated Whitney in the slot, who beat Lundqvist 1:54 in to make it 1-1.

But despite a barrage of shots from Pittsburgh to take the lead, Lundqvist denied them. Eventually turning the tide, New York setup the winning goal off a faceoff win less than five minutes later. When Michael Nylander worked the puck back to Michal Rozsival, Rozsival drew two Pens and dished off to Saturday's shootout hero Marek Malik. This time he didn't need to pull a rabit out of the hat to score his first goal of the season in regulation. Malik fired the puck inside the crossbar at 6:31.

Any chance they had to go up two was thwarted by Fleury, who stopped 30 of 32 shots.

Notes: Pens forward Ziggy Palffy left the game in the second with a groin injury. ... After missing 14 games with a knee sprain, Martin Rucinsky returned. ... Tom Poti (groin) and Jed Ortmeyer (family death) did not play. ... Kondratiev's PPG snapped a four-game drought for Rangers (0-18). ... Rangers (17-7-3) travel to the nation's capital to face Washington (8-15-2) in a rematch of last Saturday's 15 round epic shootout.

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