It was more than just another shutout for Henrik Lundqvist.
After troubling losses to Toronto and Edmonton, the Rangers' 5-0 rout of the Eastern Conference-leading Penguins Tuesday night at the Garden represented something more basic, more elemental.
"This had to happen after the two games we played," said Lundqvist, who stopped 33 shots for his third shutout to close out a stunning teamwide performance. "We had to come back at our absolute best to show ourselves how we have to play. I'm happy with the way we responded. You can go out here and feel unsure of where we are after the two losses, playing such a good team."
Actually, the Penguins are more than just a good team.
Sidney Crosby & Co. had won seven straight games and had only lost two of 13 games in regulation.
Led by Crosby's 24 points, Pittsburgh averaged more than four goals a game and had not been shut out.
They lead the league on the power play. The Rangers not only killed three of them, Rick Nash scored a shorthanded goal, his league-leading 12th tally of the season.
And Derick Brassard's power-play snipe that zipped past Marc-Andre Fleury at 10:49 of the second period ended a penalty-kill streak of 39 for the visitors.
"One of the reasons we responded was because we played the best team in the league," said Brassard, who has six goals this season. "We didn't want to have the same result as last game [3-1 loss to Oilers]. And when you're scared, you kind of show up to play. We executed everything, in the 'D' zone, everything was perfect. We got back and helped the defensemen. Now, it's just to bring it every game."
Goals by Mats Zuccarello, Martin St. Louis and Kevin Klein provided a 3-0 lead as the Rangers (7-6-2) attacked and dominated the first period.
"It's how we want to play every single night," said Derek Stepan, who had two assists. "You have to pressure guys and create turnovers because it's too hard to make tic-tac-toe plays every night."
Zuccarello's third of the season came on a right-side wrister after Stepan won a faceoff at 8:23. St. Louis scored his fourth in the last five games into a half-empty cage after Nash, at the top of the crease for a rebound of Mark Staal's point shot, dished him the puck at 10:59. Klein, the only Rangers defenseman to score this season, got his third on a long, low blast that blew past Fleury's glove side at 14:47.
Meanwhile, the Rangers denied the first two power-play opportunities by the Penguins. The third came when Tanner Glass, who had saved a goal with a last-second swipe in the first period, was called for boarding Simon Despres at 7:33 of the third. It resulted in Nash's shorthander, to go with his two assists, as Stepan raced behind the net and fed him in front at 7:45. Stepan's assist was his second of the night. Staal also had two assists.
The win lifted the Rangers to 5-3-2 at home. They travel to Pittsburgh (10-3-1) for a rematch Saturday at Consol Energy Center. But first, Colorado visits the Garden on Thursday.
"I thought our energy level, our emotion on the bench throughout, everyone was engaged and we started rolling," Staal said. "We just have to get the confidence to play like that consistently."