One game does not a season make. But one game could portend a good final month of the truncated season.
The Rangers played their most complete game of the season in beating the Penguins, 6-1, Wednesday night at the Garden. With the win, the Rangers jumped from ninth in the East to seventh. All three local teams are tied with 39 points.
“I think this was the best game we could have played following a huge win for us [Monday night] against Winnipeg,” Dan Girardi said. “We need to come back with a huge effort. I think from the get-go we were ready to play. I think that was a very complete game for us.
“It felt kind of like we were last year. We come out knowing we’re going to win games.”
Hours after organizational decision-makers overhauled the team by trading Marian Gaborik and two prospects to Columbus for Derek Dorsett, Derick Brassard and John Moore, the Rangers continually pressured the shorthanded Penguins while allowing head coach John Tortorella to roll four lines.
“I felt more comfortable about it. I was looking for certain matches along the way. When you’re not chasing a game all the time, it changes the complexion a little bit,” Tortorella said. “[Asham] did some good things. I think you have Ash, you have Clowe, maybe Dorsett gets in on that, you’re not all alone out there in that type of role. And I think you can feel more comfortable in that.”
Brassard and Brian Boyle each finished with four points. Fellow newcomer Ryane Clowe had a three-point night, while Brad Richards had two assists in his best game of the year. Eight Rangers were plus-1 or better, led by Clowe and Mats Zuccarello, both of whom were plus-2.
Clowe scored his first two goals of the season, while Boyle, Brassard, Moore and Ryan McDonagh added one each.
The Rangers won the game for all intents and purposes in an opening period that was their best of the season. Boyle opened the scoring 10:01 into the first with a deflection of Richards’s point shot. McDonagh potted the game-winner just 2:18 later with a one-timer off a Richards feed over Marc-Andre Fleury’s glove. Clowe scored his first of the game two minutes later.
“We didn’t want to wait this long to have these [offensive] games,” McDonagh said.
Brassard increased the lead to 4-0 just 1:53 into the second period with a power play backhander. Clowe pushed the advantage to 5-1 with a goal line stuff on the power play.
The specialty teams contributed in as the power play went 3-for-4, while the man-down unit killed the Pens’ only man-advantage opportunity. The three power-play goals were the most since April 3, 2012.
“The power play was the best we’ve seen all year,” Richards said. “If we can keep that going, that’s huge. That’s what it’s going to come down to when games get tight. Special teams [are] everything.”
Pascal Dupuis scored Pittsburgh’s only goal. Dupuis’s 18th of the season was Henrik Lundqvist’s lone blemish on a night in which he faced just 27 shots. Fleury allowed all six goals on 39 shots.
The win ended a seven-game losing streak to Pittsburgh.
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.