Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 1/20/13
NEW YORK -- The Pittsburgh Penguins have come storming into the shortened season, not only starting with a pair of impressive road wins against their division foes, but creating questions for the rival New York Rangers. The Penguins dominated New York in a 6-3 win to spoil the Rangers' home opener at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night, even prompting Rangers coach John Tortorella to pull goalie Henrik Lundqvist about midway through the second period after he gave up four goals. James Neal scored two goals, giving him three in two games, and Tyler Kennedy also scored in his second straight game as the Penguins opened a 5-1 lead and held on for the win. Matt Niskanen and Pascal Dupuis also scored and Kris Letang added an empty-net goal for the Penguins (2-0), who opened the season outscoring Atlantic Division rivals Philadelphia and the Rangers 9-4. "We know divisional play in a shortened season -- (against) two teams we think are going to be very good -- they are important games right off the hop," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said after the Penguins won for the eighth time in their last 10 games at the Garden. "... It is really important to get two wins against Atlantic Division opponents. They are extremely big wins for us." New York fell to 0-2 and several players acknowledged the team's competiveness was lacking. "All of 'em, and that is certainly not being sarcastic," Rangers coach John Tortorella said of what elements the Rangers need to improve on. "All of 'em." Ryan Callahan, Taylor Pyatt and Rick Nash scored goals for New York, the latter two players picking up their first goals as Rangers and pulling New York to within 5-3 with a pair of third-period goals. Tomas Vokoun made 31 saves for the Penguins while Lundqvist stopped 18 shots and Rangers backup Martin Biron made 20 saves while allowing a third-period goal to Neal in front of the net, off an assist from Evgeni Malkin and Paul Martin, 5:06 into the period. Pittsburgh jumped on the Rangers for three goals in the first and added a fourth on a power-play goal by Dupuis at the 9:11 mark of the second, prompting the Rangers to pull Lundqvist for Biron. "I was not gonna keep him in there," Tortorella said. "It wasn't him. I was not gonna keep him in there with what was happening in front of him." Said Lundqvist: "Personally, it was a tough night. I really don't have an explanation other than we just have to work harder and keep getting better." The Penguins built a 3-1 lead in the first, getting on the board in the first two minutes while on a power play. Before the game, Tortorella said he wasn't expecting offseason acquisition Arron Asham to be a "saint" as he prepared for his Rangers debut, given his reputation as a tough player. Asham, who played with the Penguins last season, served the last of a four-game suspension in Saturday's season opener, but took just two seconds to square off with the man who replaced him in Pittsburgh, Tanner Glass. Usually fourth-liners, the players started and immediately engaged in a fight that included several shots to the head by each. A half-minute later, the Rangers' Brad Richards was called for an interference penalty, giving the Penguins a power play, which they converted when Neal scored 1:48 into the game for a 1-0 lead. Tortorella, who criticized Penguins defenseman Brook Orpik for a knee-to-knee hit on Rangers center Derek Stepan last April and called the Penguins out for "whining," said he started Asham because the Rangers were "playing against his (old) team, they started Glass; combination." He expressed disappointment that the Rangers did not rally around the incident. "High marks for Ash," Tortorella said. "That's what (ticks) me off a little bit. Ash goes in there and hangs in there and turns around and we don't come in behind him. "A player does something like that, as long as he did that, the other guys need to feed off that and do their thing, and that has not happened." The Rangers took advantage of a 5-on-3 and tied the game on a rebound by Callahan after Voukon deflected a shot by Richards, 9:55 into the first. But the Penguins racked up two more goals in the period to stun New York and leave Rangers fans booing at the end of the period. Kennedy scored off a deflection after Joe Vitale's miss, 15:05 into the first. Defensemen Niskanen then made it 3-1 with just 1:10 left in the first, when his shot deflected off Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi's skate and through Lundqvist's legs. Sidney Crosby got an assist, his first point of the season. "We did a good job of wearing down their defense in the first and the second," Neal said. "The third was a little sloppy on our part and we'll clean that up, but overall we came in and played a good game." NOTES: Rangers right wing Brandon Segal was returned to AHL affiliate Connecticut to make room for Arron Asham. ... Orpik's hit of the Rangers' Chris Kreider in the game's final minute sent Kreider out of the game, but Tortorella had no problem with the hit, saying it was clean. "That's the big problem with the club right now," Tortorella said of his team. "Maybe we need to get whacked around a little more." Tortorella said he did not know Kreider's status.
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