It marked the first time in the 82 seasons of the Original Six franchise that the Rangers absorbed back-to-back 1-0 defeats, according to Elias Sports Bureau. They lost 1-0 in a shootout on Saturday to Boston.
“It’s going to come. You’ve got to believe,” said Jaromir Jagr, off to the worst start of his 17-season career with only one goal in eight games. “There’s nothing else to do; you can’t do anything else.”
Evgeni Malkin scored on a power play early in the second period to ruin a good night by Henrik Lundqvist, who made a succession of excellent saves while stopping 21 shots. The biggest save came on Jordan Staal’s penalty shot less than a minute after Malkin scored.
The only way for Lundqvist to win these days is by shutout, and even that isn’t a guaranteed win. Despite having one of the NHL’s prime collection of scorers—they added Gomez and Drury in megadollar offseason deals—the Rangers have only 13 goals while going 2-5-1.
“Your heart just goes out to him (Lundqvist),” Drury said. “Hopefully he hangs in there and keeps making saves for us. We owe him a lot of goals.”
The Rangers haven’t scored so few goals in their first eight games since they had nine in 1950, when they were shut out for three in a row. No matter, Fleury said he never relaxed.
“They’ve got so many skilled players, you never know what’s coming on the next shot,” Fleury said. “You’ve always got to stay ready.”
The Rangers have gone 181 minutes, nine seconds without scoring an even-strength goal, or since Jagr got his only goal during a 3-1 loss to Ottawa on Oct. 13.
“Everybody says that you have to shoot more. I don’t think that’s the answer,” Jagr said. “It’s not 1980. You can’t score from the red line. To score in this league, you have to have very good chances. Goaltenders are too good and defenses now aren’t going to give you chances.”
The Rangers, seen as a Stanley Cup contender after their busy offseason, have lost four in a row and six of seven. Some of their best chances came late, with Ryan Callahan hitting the right post with five minutes left. They also couldn’t score on a power play created by a too many men on the ice call with slightly less than four minutes left.
“If you play like this night in and night out, I don’t care what team you are, it’s going to happen,” Gomez said. “Two goals in two games against, we’ll take it. We’re just not scoring.”
New York picked an inopportune time to go against Fleury, who shook off an up-and-down start to make 30 saves in a 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Saturday. Fleury has stopped 66 of 67 shots since a 5-4 loss to New Jersey last Wednesday.
“You saw it Saturday night, you saw it tonight, he was the best player on our team,” Whitney said of Fleury, who allowed 18 goals in his first five games. “No one lost faith in him and he worked as hard as he could in practice. We’re all real pumped for him.”
Callahan drew a costly tripping penalty with 1.4 seconds left in the first period. The Penguins converted with 44 seconds gone in the second when Ryan Whitney slid the puck across the crease and it deflected off the heel of Malkin’s stick and past Lundqvist inside the near post.
Sidney Crosby got the second assist for his 10th point.
“He (Whitney) made a great heads-up play to read that and get that puck to him quick,” Crosby said. “He (Malkin) was strong in front of the net, he had a guy on him, and he found a way to get a stick on it. Those are kind of goals you need.”
Only 26 seconds later, Staal was hauled down by defenseman Fedor Tyutin near the blue line and was awarded a penalty shot. Staal tried to push the puck between Lundqvist’s pads, but the goalie covered up quickly to make the save.
Staal, now 19, was the youngest player in NHL history to score on a penalty shot when he did so against Columbus last season, but is 0-for-2 since then.
Malkin missed another chance for Pittsburgh to make it 2-0 later in the period, ringing a shot off the right post.
The shutout was Fleury’s eighth in 144 career games. … The Rangers were without F Martin Straka (broken right index finger), who is out for about a month. … The Rangers have scored one goal in the second period and have only five in the first two frames. … Staal played against brother Marc, a Rangers rookie defenseman, for the first time. … Pittsburgh has scored at least one power-play goal in all eight games. … The Penguins are 6-1-2 against the Rangers the last two seasons.