Updated: Friday, 02 Oct 2009, 10:58 PM EDT
Published : Friday, 02 Oct 2009, 10:57 PM EDT
Pittsburgh, PA (AP) - Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby watched the Penguins raise their Stanley Cup banner, then got the NHL champions off to a familiar start by scoring their first two goals during a 3-2 victory over the rival New York Rangers on Friday night.
Crosby and Tyler Kennedy scored 1:08 apart in the second period to give the Penguins a 3-1 lead and allow them to withstand Marian Gaborik's first goal for the Rangers, the only scoring during the third period. Pittsburgh has won all four games against the Rangers at home the last two seasons.
Rangers coach John Tortorella wanted his team to watch the Penguins' pregame ceremony, if only to show them the rewards a championship season can bring, but logistical problems prevented that. Once the game started, the Penguins offered numerous reminders of why they've played in the finals the last two seasons and beat Detroit in Game 7 in June.
Malkin, the league's leading scorer last season, and Crosby, No. 3 in scoring, each got their first of the season and Marc-Andre Fleury made 25 saves — including a goal-saving, glove-hand stop on Vinny Prospal late in the first period. The Rangers would have led 2-1 if Prospal had scored and might have seized some of the momentum created by the Penguins' pregame celebration.
While the Penguins stayed mostly the same during the brief offseason, except for losing top defensive pair Rob Scuderi and Hal Gill, the Rangers underwent a major retooling after a disappointing end to last season. They cast off scoring leaders Scott Gomez and Nikolai Zherdev, plus Markus Naslund and seven other players from last season, and added Gaborik, the former Minnesota star and the top free agent on the market.
Gaborik matched the Penguins' stars speed, starting several up-ice rushes while taking a game-high eight shots, but once again a Rangers team that ranked 28th last season with a 2.44 goals-against average had trouble finishing plays. The Rangers also were 0 for 4 on the power play to Pittsburgh's 1 of 2.
Malkin's goal came with a man-advantage at 7:48 of the first as Sergei Gonchar's shot from the right point glanced off Malkin's stick and eluded goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped 28 shots. The Rangers' Chris Drury was off for holding.
Drury made up for the penalty by scoring slightly more than eight minutes later, after Gonchar's clearing pass intended for Jordan Staal was intercepted by Christopher Higgins.
Crosby gave Pittsburgh the lead again on a goal that developed from a 3 on 1 rush with Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz. Kris Letang got the puck out from behind the net and Crosby scored from in front at 12:25 of the second. Crosby has 11 goals and 20 assists against Lundqvist, the most points he has against any opposing goalie.
Kennedy made it 3-1 on a goal that was originally rewarded to defenseman Alex Goligoski at 13:33. Gaborik cut it to 3-2 at 5:56 of the third, but the Rangers couldn't get the tying goal as the Penguins, refusing to sit back and protect the lead even as the period wound down, kept pushing to restore their two-goal lead.
NOTES: Pittsburgh is 14-0-2 in its last 16 home games against the Rangers. ... The home opener was Pittsburgh's last in 48-year-old Mellon Arena. The Penguins will move into Consol Energy Center next season. ... NHL commissioner Gary Bettman attended. ... The Staal brothers, Jordan and Marc (Rangers), each had an assist.
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