Rangers-Penguins Preview


The New York Rangers struggled for years in Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena before ending a lengthy losing streak in their final visit to the 49-year-old building.

They've enjoyed their trips to the Penguins' new home much more.

The Eastern Conference-leading Rangers look to improve to 5-0-0 at Consol Energy Center and move a step closer to their first Atlantic Division title in 18 years Tuesday night.

In 50 visits to Pittsburgh from 1993-2009, New York went 12-30-5 with three ties, a record that included 10 consecutive losses before a 3-2 overtime win Feb. 12, 2010.

That was the Rangers' final visit to Mellon, but they've had no issues winning across the street. New York (38-14-5) has outscored the Penguins 15-6 at Consol Energy Center and is 4-0-0 in the two-year-old building after a 3-1 victory Jan. 6.

The Rangers are a league-best 19-7-3 on the road, a nearly identical mark to their record at Madison Square Garden. New York improved to 19-7-2 in midtown Manhattan - and avoided its first consecutive losses since mid-December - with a 3-2 overtime win over Columbus on Sunday.

"Our team has had a pretty good maturity level all year long, being able to bounce back in tough situations,'' center Derek Stepan, who scored with 22 seconds left in the extra period, said of recovering from Thursday's 4-2 loss to Chicago. "It was a good test for us to see if we would bounce back, and I think we did a great job.''

The Rangers are 10-1-0 when Stepan scores this season. The second-year player has recorded a goal in each of his last two visits to Pittsburgh.

New York has separated itself from the rest of the Atlantic as it seeks its first division title since its Stanley Cup-winning run in 1993-94, leading second-place New Jersey by nine points and Philadelphia and Pittsburgh by 10.

The Penguins (33-21-5) pulled even with the Flyers with a 6-4 victory in Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon, but came out flat 24 hours later in a 6-2 loss at Buffalo.

"It was a letdown for our team,'' coach Dan Bylsma said. "We knew exactly what team we were playing and what they could do and how they were going to play. We didn't execute and play that way. And early on, we gave up good opportunities, which they capitalized.''

Despite getting what appeared to be a rare day off, Marc-Andre Fleury had to relieve Brent Johnson early in the second period after the backup allowed three goals on 12 shots. That was the same line Fleury had for the remainder of the day, and his goals-against average in his last 11 appearances is at 3.20 despite a 7-2-1 record.

Fleury has gone 3-4-1 with a 3.25 GAA in his last nine starts versus New York, though he made 30 stops and Evgeni Malkin scored twice as the Penguins won 4-1 at MSG on Jan. 19.

Rangers captain Ryan Callahan didn't have a point in that game after producing five goals and five assists during his previous five contests versus Pittsburgh. Each of those goals came with the man advantage, as New York has gone 9 for 29 (31.0 percent) on the power play in its last seven games against the Penguins.

It won't be easy to keep that trend going. Pittsburgh has the league's best penalty kill at home, allowing eight goals in 80 chances.

Henrik Lundqvist, 8-1-0 with a 1.42 GAA in his last nine road starts, has posted a 1.58 GAA during the Rangers' five consecutive wins in Pittsburgh.