That’s not to say there wasn’t ample respect for Sidney Crosby and the Eastern Conference-leading Penguins heading into Wednesday night’s game -- after all, the streaking superstar blew past the Blueshirts for a quality chance just 22 seconds into play -- but the Rangers have the confidence that they can play with the best.
“We had some games where they were real stinkers this year. We’ve had to turn the page and I think we can feel good about this and get some confidence going,” Boyle said after scoring his first goal of the season.
The hulking forward set the tone for the game with an excellent, blue-collar hustle play to set up the game’s first goal less than two minutes into play. Boyle battled behind the net to dig out the puck and connect with defenseman Ryan McDonagh from the left faceoff circle to get the Rangers on the board.
He scored one of his own on a rush in the second period to give the Rangers a comfortable 3-0 lead.
“I was happy Brian finally got his first goal,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “He’s had some quality chances. Hopefully, this gets him going.”
Boyle was one of the players that struggled during a lockout-shortened season last year. He came back to camp determined to exorcise his disappointing performance and, though his numbers aren’t a good reflection of it, he’s been playing well thus far.
Boyle wasn’t the only highlight of the night. Mats Zuccarello made a spectacular lead pass to spring Derek Stepan for the center’s fourth goal in two games. Captain Ryan Callahan tallied a key second-period marker off a deflection, one period after clearing a loose puck from goaltender Henrik Lundqvist's crease that could’ve changed the game dramatically. The defense was active, both in jumping up into the play and holding Crosby without a point for only the third time this season.
Henrik Lundqvist was stellar once again in steadying the team while they found their legs in the first. He made 28 saves and the penalty kill limited a potent Penguins power play to just one goal on six attempts.
“It was a big game for us,” Lundqvist said. “It was important for us to step up and we played against one of the best teams in the league. We did so many good things and I felt like the penalty kill played a huge part, too. Their power play is really skilled but we stepped up and killed them off.”
The Rangers’ decisive victory snapped the Pen's four-game winning streak and again pulled New York within one game of .500 at 7-8-0.
After coming up short against the league-leading Anaheim Ducks on Monday, the Rangers embraced Wednesday’s challenge as another opportunity to put themselves up against one of the best teams in the NHL.
This time, they were pleased with the results.
“Any time you play one of the top teams in the league, you want to see how you measure up against them, especially [because] we’ve been up and down through the first part of the season,” Callahan said. “I think it shows and gives us confidence that we have a good group in here. If we work hard and stick with our game plan, we can play with anybody.”