The Rangers showed Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins just how dangerous they can be.
Caution tape should’ve lined the Rangers bench Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, where the home team rolled over the Penguins in a 6-0 win that inflated their lead on Pittsburgh to 12 points in the Metropolitan Division standings.
Every Rangers unit that jumped over the boards and onto the ice could’ve come with its own warning label:
Danger — capable of dominating games.
That includes both power-play units, which went 1-for-4 on the night, and the penalty kill, which was a perfect 5-for-5. And the same could be said for Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin, who came up with 33 saves and has been dialed in for a handful of games now.
The Rangers dominated right from puck drop. They even ran Pittsburgh’s starting netminder, Tristan Jarry, off the ice less than halfway through the second period.
The Penguins have had a front-row seat for the evolution of the Rangers this season.
From the Rangers team of Dec. 20, which hadn’t yet been bolstered by the highlight additions of Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko, to the work-in-progress Blueshirts that lost in overtime in Pittsburgh on March 12, the Penguins experienced a club that brought in a lot of big names, but generated so little chemistry.
The Rangers that took the ice against the Penguins on Thursday and Saturday at the Garden, however, finally began putting it all together.
Pittsburgh was ultimately collateral damage in the Rangers’ pursuit of getting their star-studded lineup to jell — and Saturday was the most convincing of their performances thus far.
Their loaded top six was particularly stellar in this victory. Totaling four five-on-five goals, Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Tarasenko and Chris Kreider all landed on the score sheet.
Rangers captain Jacob Trouba also chipped in his third goal in the last six games off a sharp-angled shot.
Zibanejad, who finished with a goal and two assists, scored the Rangers’ first goal for the third straight game. Flipping a backhanded shot past Jarry, Zibanejad gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead just over five minutes into the contest.
It was also the Swedish center’s 10th opening goal of the season, which is tied with the Red Wings’ Dylan Larkin and the Avalanche’s Mikko Rantanen for the most in the NHL.
The Rangers have been spoiled by Zibanejad’s consistent, two-way play this season. He currently leads the club with 36 goals and is just five tallies away from matching the career-high total he posted during the 2019-20 season.
Tensions flared on the ice during the two team’s third meeting in the span of seven days.
Malkin shoved Braden Schneider face first into the boards in the first period, which earned the Penguins forward two minutes for roughing and two minutes for boarding. The Rangers, especially Ben Harpur, took exception and it caused a bit of a scuffle in the corner.
After the Rangers earned a power play from it, Panarin sniped the puck from the left faceoff circle to make it 2-0 going into the first intermission.
The Rangers’ magnificent lineup on paper is starting to leap off the page and onto the ice.
It was only a matter of time.
Most importantly, it’s at the right time.