By Jim Cerny, BlueshirtsUnited.com
Evgeni Malkin scored just 1:24 into the game Thursday night, and the Rangers could not find the equalizer the rest of the way as the Blueshirts dropped a 3-0 decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden. The loss was the Rangers' second on home ice to the Penguins already this season, and dropped their overall record to 3-4-0.
Coming off a 5-2 win over the Maple Leafs on Saturday and a 2-1 victory over the Flyers on Tuesday, the Rangers were looking to finish off a perfect three-game homestand on Thursday. But Malkin ripped a right-wing shot past Henrik Lundqvist on the game's first shot and the Rangers were denied time and again by Pens goalie Tomas Vokoun, who earned his 49th career shutout by stopping all 28 shots he faced while starting in the place of Pittsburgh's struggling No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
James Neal netted his fifth goal of the season, a power play marker just 28 seconds into the third period, to double the Rangers deficit. Malkin earned the secondary assist on Neal's goal, giving him a two-point night.
The Penguins then iced the game at 10:23 of the third when Simon Despres---fresh out of the penalty box---was fed by Pascal Dupuis all alone in front of the Rangers net for his first goal of the season. Just seconds before at the other end of the ice Anton Stralman's slap shot was deflected off the post by Taylor Pyatt, which was proceeded about three minutes prior by a Marian Gaborik shot that also hit iron.
The first period was not a strong one for the Blueshirts. Not only did Malkin score just 84 seconds into the game, but the Penguins possessed the puck seemingly most of the period, finihsing with an 11-6 shots on goal advantage. The Rangers did play physically, though, with Michael Del Zotto crushing Sidney Crosby into the glass behind the Rangers net face-first, and Marc Staal hammered Malkin to the ice in the final seconds---taking an errant stick to the head in the process.
That late physical play carried over into the second period for the Rangers, and their overall game picked up as a result. The Rangers outshot Pittsburgh 13-8 in the middle 20 minutes, but an extremely sharp Vokoun held them off the scoreboard, while Lundqvist did likewise against the Penguins, leaving the Blueshirts in a 1-0 hold after two periods of play.
Vokoun made three of his better saves during a Rangers power play late in the period, the last a juggling glove stop on a Brad Richards blast from right wing. The Pens netminder also sparkled in denying a Derek Stepan shorthanded rush and subsequent rebound attempt a bit earlier in the period.
Lundqvist was also very sharp in the middle stanza, gloving a Malkin power play wrister just as Crosby cut in front of him, and then getting a piece of Crosby's breakaway shot with a minute to go and sending it over the crossbar and off the glass.