NEW YORK (AP) — Matt Murray doesn’t think he’s made any big changes since coming back from an injury last month. He’s just focusing on details and helping the Pittsburgh Penguins pile up wins.
Murray stopped 28 shots to keep up his strong play since his return, and the Penguins beat the New York Rangers 7-2 Wednesday night for their season-high seventh straight victory.
“There’s nothing really game-changing you can do. It’s just about doing the little things harder and better,” said Murray, who improved to 6-0 with a 1.49 goals-against average in six games since Dec. 15.
“Battling through traffic, just competing,” he added. “The way the game’s played nowadays, there’s going to be a lot of tips and screens and weird bounces. You’ve just got to do your best and put yourself in the best position that you can to make the save.”
Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel, Kris Letang and Dominik Simon each had a goal and an assist. Zach Aston-Reese and Tanner Pearson also scored to help the Penguins win for the ninth time in 10 games. Patric Hornqvist had two assists.
“I don’t think we were at our best,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “We were opportunistic on some of the chances we got and Matt was there to make timely saves for us.”
Pittsburgh has recovered nicely from a 10-10-5 start. The Penguins are 12-2-1 in their last 15 games.
“Early in the year we might have made mistakes to beat ourselves,” said Crosby, selected an All-Star for the eighth time earlier in the day. “We’re making teams earn their chances a little more. … We’re getting a lot of different guys contributing.”
Ryan Strome and Pavel Buchnevich scored for the Rangers, who were 2-0-2 in their previous four games and 2-0-5 in their past seven at home.
Henrik Lundqvist, picked as an All-Star for the fifth time earlier in the day, gave up six goals on 18 shots before he was pulled less than five minutes into the third period. Alexandar Georgiev replaced him and finished with six saves.
“They are incredibly opportunistic,” Rangers coach David Quinn said of the Penguins. “I thought they elevated their game. Just one of those nights in the National Hockey League.”
Malkin pushed Pittsburgh’s lead to 5-1 with his 13th goal at 1:03 of the third. He brought the puck up the middle, lost control of it as he skated through some Rangers defenders and then made a lunging poke to send it through Lundqvist’s legs before sliding into the goalie.
Buchnevich pulled the Rangers back within three just 19 seconds later, putting the puck past Murray from the right side for his seventh.
However, Pearson beat Lundqvist with a shot into the top right corner on a power play for his fifth at 4:40. That ended Lundqvist’s night.
“Tonight I couldn’t find it for some reason,” Lundqvist said. “This was probably my worst game.”
Crosby made it 7-2 with 6:04 left, matching a career high with his fifth straight multipoint game. He has three goals and nine assists during that stretch,
After a scoreless first period, the Penguins took control with four goals in the second — including three in a 5:51 stretch midway through.
Aston-Reese, a native New Yorker facing the Rangers for the first time, got the Penguins on the scoreboard first. He took a pass from Matt Cullen from behind the end line, settled the puck off his skate and beat Lundqvist for his sixth at 6:29.
“Just an incredible feeling,” Aston-Reese said. “A local kid … that’s something you dream about when you’re little. To have it actually happen is huge.”
Guentzel, who signed a five-year, $30 million contract extension last week, doubled the lead with 8:39 left in the period as his shot from the left circle deflected off Rangers defenseman Marc Staal’s stick into the left corner for his 17th.
Letang made it 3-0 when he beat Lundqvist for his ninth with 7:40 left.
Strome got the Rangers on the scoreboard only 26 seconds later with a deflection of Brady Skjei’s shot past Murray.
Simon restored Pittsburgh’s three-goal lead with his fifth with 4:15 remaining in the middle period.
NOTES: Murray also moved to 8-0 in his career against the Rangers, including the playoffs.. … Crosby has four goals and 14 assists in his last 10 games. … Pittsburgh forward Phil Kessel was held without a point, ending a streak of three consecutive three-point games. … The teams play three more times this season: on Feb. 17 at Pittsburgh, March 25 back in New York, and April 6 at Pittsburgh. … Staal appeared in his 800th regular-season game, becoming the 10th player in franchise history to play that many with the Rangers. Staal also joined brothers Eric (1,130) and Jordan (872) to become the first trio of siblings in NHL history to each play at least 800.
Penguins: Host Winnipeg on Friday night to open a three-game homestand.
Rangers: At Colorado on Friday night to begin a three-game road trip.