By Jim Cerny, BlueshirtsUnited.com
Talk about first impressions!
Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, just hours after the NHL trading deadline had passed, the Rangers thoroughly dominated the Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins, thrashing them 6-1 with newcomers Ryane Clowe and Derick Brassard leading the way with star performances in their Blueshirt debuts.
Clowe, acquired Tuesday night from San Jose in exchange for three draft picks, scored two goals and notched an assist, while Brassard---picked up along with forward Derek Dorsett and defenseman John Moore from Columbus in exchange for Marian Gaborik Wednesday afternoon---notched a goal and added three assists, finishing with a career-best four points.
The newcomers were supported by their more-tenured teammates Brian Boyle, who established a career-high with four points, and Brad Richards, who picked up a pair of helpers. And between the pipes Henrik Lundqvist moved into sole posession of second place on the Rangers all-time wins list with his 268th career victory.
Brassard, Dorsett, and Moore arrived at The Garden roughly 15 minutes before warmups were due to start. Brassard and Moore---who both played while the injured Dorsett did not---actually hit the ice late for warmups, and eventual scratches Roman Hamrlik and Matt Gilroy took warmups just in case the two former Blue Jackets would not make it in time.
Not only did Brassard make it, the 25 year-old center set up the Rangers first goal with a pretty no-look pass to Richards at the blueline. Richards blasted a shot towards the net and Boyle deflected it past Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for his second goal of the season at 10:01 of the first period. It was the first of what turned out to be a season-high three power play goals Wednesday night for the Rangers.
Ryan McDonagh made it 2-0 at 12:19, zipping his third goal of the season past Fleury from the slot off a Richards feed and after a terrific forecheck which was spearheaded by Clowe---who also assisted on the score.
In fact the tenacious forecheck and relentless puck pursuit by all four lines all night long was the Rangers staple in this 6-1 victory. One line seemed to feed off another as the Blueshirts sent wave after wave of forwards flying into the Penguins zone.
Two minutes after McDonagh's goal, Clowe made it 3-0 in favor of the home team. Derek Stepan forced a Brooks Orpik turnover deep in the Pens end of the ice and Clowe hopped on the loose puck and tucked his first goal of the season into the cage. The two-time 20-goal scorer had shockingly gone scoreless in his first 28 games with the Sharks this season, but found the back of the net only 14:19 into his Rangers debut.
That the score remained 3-0 into the first intermission is a testament to Fleury who, despite allowing three goals on the first seven shots he faced, made two sensational stops on Rick Nash before the opening 20 minutes were complete.
Brassard scored a power play goal just 1:53 into the second period off a falling-down backhander, with Boyle and Dan Girardi earning assists. That goal marked only the second time this season that the Rangers had scored multiple power play goals in a game.
After Pascal Dupuis cashed in a juicy rebound for his 18th goal at 2:27 of the middle period, the Rangers netted their third power play goal of the night at 11:52. Again Brassard made it happen with a behind-the-back pass from one side of the goal-mouth to the other. Clowe cashed in his second goal of the contest, with Fleury pulled way out of position.
Not to be left out, Moore, the 22 year-old defenseman, drove a left-wing shot through Fleury's pads for his first goal of the season--and first as a Ranger in his Blueshirts debut---9:47 into the third period, pushing the Rangers lead to 6-1. It was a season-high in goals for the Rangers who had scored five on three different occasions this season.
Boyle and Brassard each assisted on Moore's goal, and each established a new single game career-best in points with four apiece.
The win was the second straight for the Rangers following a pair of shutout defeats last week in Ottawa and Montreal. Meanwhile Pittsburgh lost for the second time in as many nights after having won 15 consecutive games.
The wto teams will finish this home-and-home set Friday night in Pittsburgh when the Rangers open up a three-game road trip.
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