Penguins stumble again, fall to Rangers
Rangers’ Ryane Clowe celebrates with teammate Mats Zuccarello (36) after scoring a first-period goal against Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury Wednesday in New York.
NEW YORK – Derick Brassard and John Moore had no way of knowing just how well their debut with the New York Rangers would go.
They started the day at practice with the Columbus Blue Jackets and ended it as key offensive forces in the Rangers’ surprising 6-1 rout of the Pittsburgh Penguins Wednesday night.
Brassard and Moore arrived just 15 minutes before pregame warm-ups, following a trade that sent star forward Marian Gaborik from the Rangers to the Blue Jackets.
Throw in Ryane Clowe, acquired Tuesday night in a deal with San Jose, and the newcomers were the driving force in New York’s highest-scoring game of the season.
“I shook their hands and said, `Go have fun,”’ Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “Everybody is coming up to introduce themselves, and they’re trying to get their (stuff) on.”
Clowe had his first two goals of the season and an assist, Brassard had a goal and three assists, and Moore also scored his first of the season to power the Rangers to victory. Brian Boyle, not a newcomer, also broke out with a goal and three assists.
If they were nervous in the bright lights, it sure didn’t show.
“I didn’t have time to be nervous,” Brassard said. “I was stressed out with everything and saying bye to my teammates.
“We got here like 15 minutes before, and everything was ready for us. It’s a great experience I am going to remember for the rest of my life.”
The Rangers scored three goals in the first period and never looked back. New York was also buoyed by a season-high three power-play goals.
Henrik Lundqvist got a chance to relax a bit, making 26 saves and earning his 268th win, the second most in Rangers history.
Clowe had no goals in 28 games this season with the Sharks, but quickly dropped the zero in New York.
“I just wanted to have a good start and get into it early, not ease my way into it,” Clowe said. “It went well.”
Moore’s goal at 9:17 of the third pushed the lead to 6-1. Brassard and Boyle both notched their third assists of the game. Before Wednesday, Boyle had one goal and one assist in 31 games this season.
“We got the offense going,” Boyle said. “The new guys gave us a spark — more than a spark. It was just cool to welcome them.”
The Rangers won their second straight home game, scoring a combined 10 goals in the victories after a pair of shutout losses, and moved into a tie with the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders with 39 points at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Pascal Dupuis scored in the second period for the Penguins, who lost for the second consecutive night after 15 consecutive victories.
Marc-Andre Fleury, who replaced shelled starter Tomas Vokoun in the Penguins’ 4-1 home loss to Buffalo on Tuesday, played the duration on Wednesday and made 33 saves.
“I thought the compete level from the Rangers and their game was very high, and we certainly didn’t match it,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “It wasn’t there. I think that was evident throughout.
“We got beat by a team that competed harder and was more desperate.”
The Penguins (28-10) were again without captain and NHL scoring leader Sidney Crosby, who missed his second straight game and is out indefinitely because of a broken jaw.
“It’s going to have to be the guys in this locker room. Syd isn’t coming back on Friday,” Dupuis said. “It has nothing to do with skill level. It has to do with battle level, and wanting it more. We can’t seem to find it the last couple of days.”
Pittsburgh also made some noise before the deadline by acquiring center Jussi Jokinen from the Carolina Hurricanes to help offset the loss of Crosby. Jokinen wasn’t in the Penguins lineup.
After killing off an early penalty to Ryan McDonagh, a power play that produced Jarome Iginla’s hard drive off the goal post, the Rangers took advantage of Chris Kunitz’s slashing penalty at 8:36 when Boyle scored his second of the season.
Brassard spun in the left circle and backhanded a pass back to Brad Richards at the point for a drive that hit Boyle in front and caromed in. The goal was originally credited to Richards, which would’ve given Clowe another assist, before being changed to Boyle.
Just 2:18 later, Richards fed a pass into the slot to McDonagh, who snapped a wrist shot into the top right corner to make it 2-0 with his third of the season. Clowe earned his first point for New York by getting the secondary assist.
He would finally score after only 2 more minutes elapsed. Derek Stepan forced a turnover as defenseman Brooks Orpik skated with the puck behind his net. Stepan then sent a backhanded pass out front to Clowe, who knocked it in.
Bylsma used his timeout, but couldn’t stem the tide. New York led 3-0 despite recording only seven shots on goal. It was the Rangers’ biggest first period of the season, and one goal shy of tying their most productive frame of the campaign.
The Rangers, who will play at Pittsburgh on Friday, had dropped back-to-back 3-0 decisions to the Penguins before breaking out on Wednesday. The Penguins won the first meeting of the season 6-3 on Jan. 20.
“It just seems we’ve been on our heels playing Pittsburgh, and we need to be more on our toes,” Tortorella said. “We found our way. We just need to temper it, enjoy it, but we’re still fighting for our lives.”
New York continued its onslaught in the second period, pushing the lead to 4-0 just 1:53 in when Brassard scored his first with the Rangers on a power play.
Dupuis netted the Penguins’ lone goal only 34 seconds later, but the Penguins couldn’t build momentum off of it.
Clowe scored his second of the night and season, again on a power play, with 8:08 left in the second off assists by Brassard and Boyle.
Fleury got so frustrated that he slammed his stick against the boards behind his net and got the blade stuck in the gap where the glass meets the dasher. In the third period, Fleury angrily batted a puck out of the air during a stoppage in play.
The Rangers had scored five goals in a game three times this season. ... Penguins D Mark Eaton didn’t make the trip to New York because of an illness. He was replaced in the lineup by Robert Bortuzzo, who sat out the previous 16 games following his most recent appearance on Feb. 28 at Carolina. Bortuzzo earned his second assist of the season.