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Henrik Lundqvist blanks Penguins in 3-0 win for Rangers

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Henrik Ludnqvist turns away 34 shots on goal for his first shutout since Nov. 23.Gene J. Puskar/AP

Henrik Ludnqvist turns away 34 shots on goal for his first shutout since Nov. 23.

PITTSBURGH — The King is back.

A confident Henrik Lundqvist made 34 saves to blank Sidney Crosby and the Penguins, 3-0, at CONSOL Energy Center on Wednesday night, lifting the Blueshirts to their fourth straight win in his first shutout since Nov. 23.

Lundqvist then beamed as he explained that a challenge from goalie coach Benoit Allaire and a small tweak in technique have yielded huge returns since Monday night’s 2-1 home win over the Devils.

“I changed a detail two games ago. I can’t tell you what,” Lundqvist said, laughing as a reporter jokingly pried for more. “You always make a big thing when I talk about something. But it brought me back to something that’s very important to my game. Also Benny challenged me two games ago about shutouts. I got close last game but today we got it done. It’s great. They don’t come easy for me these days.”

Alain Vigneault’s second-place Rangers (31-18-5, 67 points) celebrated contributions from Kevin Hayes (first goal in 13 games), Dominic Moore (first

goal in 16 games), Tanner Glass (first point in 20 games) and Jesper Fast (empty-net goal). They blocked 25 shots and killed off both Penguins power plays in the first of these teams’ four meetings.

Kevin Hayes opens up the scoring in the first period as they win their fourth straight game.Gene J. Puskar/AP

Kevin Hayes opens up the scoring in the first period as they win their fourth straight game.

But Pittsburgh carried play, outshot the Rangers, 34-22, and attempted 73 shots to the Blueshirts’ 41. The Rangers turned several pucks over, especially Marc Staal, Dan Boyle and Keith Yandle (assist) early, yet also won battles and cleared rebounds in Lundqvist 58th career shutout.

“More so than anything, it’s really good to see Hank shut the door like that,” said center Derek Stepan (assist).

Now the Rangers suddenly have allowed only one even-strength goal in eight-and-a-half periods since defenseman Ryan McDonagh (concussion) left injured Saturday in Philadelphia.

Crosby charged hard but finished minus-three with no shots on goal and had three blistering scoring streaks snapped: seven straight games with a goal, nine straight at home with a goal, 11 straight overall with a point.

Marc Andre-Fleury (19 saves) and the fourth-place Penguins (27-19-7, 61 points) had won six of seven coming in. Without Evgeni Malkin (lower body) they still challenged Lundqvist and found no answers.

Penguins' Sidney Crosby is held without a goal for the first time in seven games.Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images

Penguins’ Sidney Crosby is held without a goal for the first time in seven games.

The King made a big-time blocker save on a screaming Kris Letang slap shot set up by Crosby with one minute left in the second period. In his ninth straight start and 22nd in the last 23, Lundqvist also tied Mike Richter for the most all-time appearances by a Rangers goaltender (666).

The shutout also brings back Lundqvist’s wine lottery, a post-shutout ritual of giving out bottles to teammates on the team plane as a reward. He couldn’t do it on the flight back from Pittsburgh, though.

“Next trip,” Lundqvist said. “I still have to go buy the wine.”

His third shutout of the season and the Rangers’ fourth overall has brought their second-longest winning streak of the season behind only their nine-game run from Oct. 25-Nov. 15, but Lundqvist had that glint in his eye at his locker.

“Right now we’re getting closer,” he said, “and you can see the light.” 

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