PITTSBURGH — The New York Rangers are missing their captain and one of their leading scorers. They still have one of the best goaltenders in the league.
“I just liked the way we competed,” Lundqvist said. “I felt like we were getting to loose pucks and rebounds. You need guys to step up when they get the opportunity to play more minutes and that’s what we’re having now.”
None bigger than Lundqvist, who recorded his 27th win of the season and passed Martin Brodeur for most victories by a goaltender in his first 11 NHL seasons.
Lundqvist has won nine of his last 12 starts and allowed two goals or fewer in 13 of his last 18 appearances, helping the Rangers win again without captain Ryan McDonagh and eight-time 30-goal scorer Rick Nash.
“There’s no doubt that our goaltending was outstanding,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “(Lundqvist) made some big saves at key times and we were able to get some timely goals.”
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who didn’t record a shot on goal, failed to extend a career-high, seven-game goal-scoring streak and an 11-game run of 12 goals and 22 points during that span. Crosby, with seven goals and 12 points in the previous four games, also came in with a nine-game home goal-scoring streak, second in team history behind Mario Lemieux’s 11 straight in 1995-96.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 19 saves for the Penguins, whose six-game home win streak ended. Pittsburgh, unbeaten in its last 10 at home, last lost a regulation home game against Carolina on Dec. 19. The Penguins previously won six of seven with points in 16 of their last 20 games.
“We had some good chances,” Crosby said. “They capitalized on theirs and we didn’t. That was the difference.”
Moore gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead early in the third period, snapping a sharp wrist shot over Fleury’s shoulder during a 2-on-1. Fast capped the scoring with an empty-net goal with 1:31 left.
It was the first time the teams played each other since the 2015 Eastern Conference quarterfinals, when Lundqvist allowed just one goal in all four wins as the Rangers won the best-of-seven series in five games.
Crosby and the Penguins entered as one of the hottest teams in the league, averaging close to five goals during a six-game home winning streak, including a six-goal outburst against Anaheim on Monday. But the Rangers slowed the pace and shut down the high-powered Penguins as Wednesday’s game carried a low-scoring, playoff feel similar to last season’s five-game series.
“We knew coming into this building that we were playing a really hot team and their top player was playing really well,” Lundqvist said. “It was a great challenge for us.”
Both teams were without top players Wednesday as the Rangers missed McDonagh and Nash, while 2012 NHL MVP Evgeni Malkin sat out for Pittsburgh.
Malkin, who will not travel for weekend road games at Carolina and Florida, missed his fourth straight game with a lower-body injury.
Nash, who hasn’t played since Jan. 22, missed his seventh straight game with a bone bruise in his left leg. McDonagh missed his second game since sustaining a concussion following a punch by Wayne Simmonds during the weekend against Philadelphia.
“When you miss some of your top people, it’s an opportunity for some other guys to step up,” Vigneault said.
Hayes opened the scoring midway through the first period, putting the rebound of Tanner Glass‘ shot past an out-of-position Fleury.
Conor Sheary had the Penguins’ best chance to tie it early in the second period when he split the defence, but he hit the crossbar to the left of Lundqvist.
NOTES: Penguins D Trevor Daley left in the first period and did not return. … Lundqvist tied Mike Richter for most career appearances by a goaltender in team history. … Rangers D Dan Boyle passed Mark Messier and Steve Vickers for 11th on the team’s all-time games played list. … Both teams are back in action Friday. Pittsburgh will visit Carolina, while the Rangers host Los Angeles.