The second act got off to a much better start.
|The New York Rangers' Ryan Hollweg collides along the boards with Sidney Crosby during the first period on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2007, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)|
Gomez scored 1:12 in and then netted his second goal of the game in the third period for the New York Rangers, who played a well-rounded game and stifled the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-0 on Tuesday night.
"Sometimes you have to make changes. Sometimes you've got to mix things up. We're in the NHL. It doesn't matter who you play with," Gomez said following his first two-goal game with the Rangers. "We didn't try to almost overthink. We're a bunch of hockey players."
The combination of Gomez's offense and a shutdown defense made things easier for Henrik Lundqvist, back in goal after sitting out one game because of the flu. He needed to make only 18 saves for his sixth shutout this season and 13th of his NHL career.
It marked the first time the Penguins were blanked in 33 games this season. Pittsburgh recorded only five shots through the first 40 minutes.
"It's not a game that we're too proud of. You're not going to get anything if your competition level isn't there," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said.
The Rangers improved to 3-1 against the Penguins this season and are 7-1-1 in their last nine home games in the series.
The final few seconds proved to be the hardest for Lundqvist, but not because of Pittsburgh. The third-year goalie got emotional at the end as his mind drifted to his father, who is going through a difficult time following recent surgery.
"The last 20 seconds you just start thinking about it," he said. "It's tough."
Martin Straka and Chris Drury each had a goal and assist, and Michal Rozsival set up three goals for New York, which was 1-4-1 in its previous six and had allowed 24 goals in the losses.
The Rangers converted on two of six power-play chances after scoring three goals in 21 opportunities the previous six games.
"These last eight or nine days haven't been glorious for us, and it's because we haven't been able to get that first goal," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "When we play outside of our system and outside of ourselves, consequently we lose probably by more than we should."
Dany Sabourin made 27 saves for the Penguins, who had their lowest shot total of the season after putting up 40 in a 3-2 win at the New York Islanders on Saturday.
Pittsburgh was held to two shots in the second period and allowed a pair of goals to the Rangers, who enjoyed four power plays in it.
New York scored on only one, but that goal by Gomez pushed the lead to 3-0 with 6:39 left in the period.
With the familiar urges from the crowd for the Rangers to shoot the puck on the power play growing louder as the seconds ticked away on Adam Hall's tripping penalty, Gomez let the puck go as he feet straddled the left circle by the goal line.
The shot struck the skate of Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney in front and redirected past Sabourin for Gomez's eighth in his first season with the Rangers.
Pittsburgh was short-handed once more in the period when Gary Roberts inexplicably rammed into Lundqvist as the goalie reached to catch a pop fly. The Rangers couldn't take advantage but left the ice having scored as many times as Pittsburgh put pucks on net.
|Goalie Dany Sabourin made 27 saves on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2007, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)|
The Penguins recorded two shots in the opening 25 seconds of the third and exceeded their second-period total by the time 1:15 had elapsed. They even earned their third power play of the night, compared to New York's five, but failed to muster the offense to get on the board.
It didn't help that they were without Crosby's linemate Ryan Malone, who missed his first game of the season due to the flu.
"I don't think we were ready to compete like we needed to," Crosby said. "You can play the system and do all those things, but you need to play with that willingness to win battles and second effort.
"For whatever reason, we didn't have it in the first two periods."
Pittsburgh wrecked its chance to get going midway through the period when Tyler Kennedy and Colby Armstrong were whistled for penalties 44 seconds apart, setting up a lengthy 5-on-3 power play that Drury took advantage of with 7:40 left.
Lundqvist's best moment came about two minutes earlier after Crosby threw a pick on Marc Staal at center ice and came into the Rangers' zone on a 2-on-1 with Whitney. He gave the puck to the defenseman, but the return pass clanked off Crosby's skate into Lundqvist.
Notes: New York is 10-11-1 when outshooting opponents, but 7-2-2 when outshot. ... Pittsburgh had at least 22 shots in every other game this season. ... Crosby was held without a point for the sixth time this season, but fourth in six games. He has one goal in nine games.